DON’T WRITE OFF the Barbados International Hockey Festival just yet.
Despite losing long-time sponsors Banks and seeing a drop-off in teams, Barbados Hockey Federation president David Rouse has described this year’s edition of the tournament as successful and even expects a huge celebration for next year’s 30th anniversary.
Rouse, who also serves as the tournament organising chairman, made the quite flattering assessment in light of the encouraging feedback received after staging the entire competition at Kensington Oval.
“I think having it exclusively at the Oval was a major plus for us because obviously the visiting team would know of the historic value of Kensington but never got a chance to visit there until actually playing on the ground itself for this festival,” explained Rouse.
“So I thought we had a very successful tournament despite the declining number of teams because the comments were mainly very positive from the teams and the hockey itself was quite good as the level wasn’t affected by the drop-off.
“And it’s the first time we had no protests at all. Of course you had the usual complaints about umpires but that is something you can’t get away from, as it happens even at the World Cup level,” he added.
The appraisal came as somewhat of a surprise considering Banks ended its 28-year partnership with the festival while the competition was only able to attract four overseas teams to play in a tournament featuring 32 squads in four divisions.
However, Rouse revealed that the organising committee was already attracting significant interest from prospective sponsors for next year’s big 30th edition, which could coincide with Crop Over in the hope of drawing more foreign participation.
And that festival may feature an even bigger drawing card, as Rouse disclosed the BHF was given the assurance by Government that there would be a new AstroTurf in place before next summer.
“At the closing ceremony, a representative from the Ministry of Sports said they will be meeting the stakeholder and more or less promised that we will have a new turf before the festival, which would be great,” said Rouse.
“We need somewhere to play the league and of course the pitch is very important to the development of our sport, but not having the turf for the festival won’t be a major drawback because I think we’ve reached the stage where we’re used to not having the pitch. Once we get proper grass pitches to play on, then the festival will do just fine.
“So we’re looking at grounds like Weymouth, Queen’s Park and even as far as Trents because once we get more teams and more matches, then the Oval may not be able to stage all the matches there again. But then again, depending on the level of funding we receive, we may be able to host all the matches at the Oval once we can afford to use lights every night,” he added.