Surbiton Hockey Club’s recent financial prosperity has provided hope for hockey’s future, at a time when many of the UK’s smallest clubs are struggling to survive.
The UK’s largest field hockey club recently unveiled a plan to upgrade their facilities at Sugden Road and are hoping to use these to help smaller teams, who are suffering the most from the coronavirus pandemic.
Surbiton’s Colts admin Liselle Carey, said: “We want to offer our facilities, our expertise, our coaching, throughout the community.
“Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we were very fortunate. We were obviously shut down completely through Government directives at stages, but we managed to get up and running quite quickly, every time the rules allowed it.
“That helped us in a big way to start thinking about what we were doing beyond just professional hockey.”
One way in which the club plans to do this is via their work with the Surbiton Hockey Community Project, a charity that provides coaching to approximately 2,000 state schoolchildren every year.
Surbiton believe the need for such projects is arguably greater now more than ever.
Carey explained: “Something that the whole of the hockey community in England is concerned about at the moment is that a lot of hockey clubs do not have their own site.
“We’re very, very lucky in that we own our site and our facilities are ours, so we don’t have to go to a school and share a school site and multi-use clubs.”
With many schools and community clubs changing their pitches from hockey astroturf to multi-use 3G surfaces, that are unsuitable for hockey, smaller sides reliant on agreements to use the facilities are now struggling to survive.
Carey added: “You cannot play hockey on a 3G surface, so there are clubs around the country who are having to close.
“They are literally folding because where they’ve had partnerships with schools for years and years and used their sites on the weekends for their club hockey, it’s now being turned into a multi-use pitch, which is unsuitable for hockey.
“Unless these clubs have facilities with their local council, they just cannot carry on.”
Surbiton are doing their part to help, by offering their facilities for a wide range of activities, outside of the school hockey lessons they have previously catered for.
Walking football, five-a-side football and art classes for babies, toddlers, mums and dads are all among the activities that the club’s facilities have helped to run.
Carey said: “A couple of Fridays ago we hosted a local NHS trust, who were having a fun day for their staff.
“They came along, our groundsmen laid out lines on the grass and made a 100-metre running track and they had a fun sports day, followed by a meal and everything in the clubhouse.”
By showcasing the multi-use capabilities of hockey pitches, the club hope to encourage others to retain their hockey Astroturf playing surfaces.
However, Surbiton cannot do it alone and are aware of the need for wider change to secure the sport’s long-term prosperity.
Carey added: “You could play tennis on one of our pitches, you could do a strength and conditioning boot camp.
“We’re not precious about it just being for hockey.
“I think that the message should go out that hockey is a successful sport in this country.
“It doesn’t necessarily attract the television or the press that other sports do, but we are always in the Olympics, we are always in the World Championships.”
Without adequate funding, this success will become increasingly difficult to replicate and Carey is concerned that the sport will continue to suffer and many of the UK’s smallest clubs will simply fade away.
Featured Image Credit: England Hockey