Matchdebating: Hockey participation not high enough

For the past couple of weeks the University of Sheffield Hockey Club has been outraged at Sport Sheffield’s decision to replace the bottom hockey pitch with a 3G surface that’s, unfortunately, not best suited to hockey.
I completely understand the Hockey Club’s frustration at not being fully consulted in this matter, but I have to say that I fully support Sport Sheffield’s decision in this case, if not the process in which they came about it.
A sense of aggrievement is completely normal when someone takes something away from you, I completely understand why this returfing would outrage the hockey community, but that doesn’t mean Sport Sheffield’s actions aren’t for the greater good of the sport community.
In their statement regarding the issue, the Hockey Club admit that the shock absorbers in the new 3G pitch make the surface suitable for competitive contact sports such as football, rugby, american football and lacrosse.

Furthermore, the current sports officer Ben Baldwin has already stated that hockey players ‘won’t lose any pitch time in terms of training or matches’.
He also adds, “In an ideal situation we would have more room. It’s a case of this pitch suiting more clubs in the future”.
What this debate boils down to is a matter of resources. What I’m about to say might offend some people, outrage others and quite possibly resonate with a few too, but here goes.
It’s only hockey.
I don’t mean this in terms of quality, I’m not making a statement regarding the valuation of hockey as a sport, as I’d be the first to admit I don’t play nor do I watch hockey.  I’m talking purely in terms of student participation.
Nobody can argue that a 3G pitch capable of supporting the aforementioned contact sports, including football and rugby (the two most popular sports within Sports Sheffield) is less valuable to the student community than a pitch which primarily benefits hockey, and hockey alone.
Currently Sports Sheffield have one full sized 3G pitch, and two full size ‘hockey’ pitches. Considering the demand for both it seems completely reasonable for a restructuring of resources to be made.
The Hockey Club do have a legitimate argument about the quality of the single remaining hockey pitch (which is completely inadequate), and I fully support any campaign to have that surface relaid.
However, considering the assurances made that would prevent a decrease in both training and match time for hockey players, and taking into account the already over-congested facilities for the most popular contact sports,  I simply cannot see a mature argument to suggest that Sports Sheffield should have two hockey pitches rather than two 3G ones.
I am arguing for this on behalf of all the sports clubs at the University of Sheffield.

Rather than think about the individual hockey club, I am thinking about the collective sports clubs.


18 Responses to “Matchdebating: Hockey participation not high enough”

  1. Banjo

    The biggest club at the University is the Hockey club. (Yes, bigger than the football and the rugby clubs.)
    The only clubs scoring more BUCS points than the hockey club are the squash club and the table tennis club. One of the most successful clubs in the Union.

  2. Clem Teagle

    Interested to know how you came to the conclusion that rugby and football are the most popular uni sports. Obviously football is very popular, but unless im mistaken mens rugby have 3 teams and women’s rugby have 1 and a ‘development side’. Hockey have 8 teams in BUCS and 2 development sides, and a big intra mural scene. Then again it is ‘only hockey’. Maybe 5 minutes spent doing research would have been advisable before writing an article on something you ‘dont play or watch’.

  3. Sean

    “It’s only hockey”, that is a disgusting comment. Secondly saying the pitch in place was primarily for hockey is just false! The pitch was used by football and rugby. The new pitch allows the above teams to participate but not hockey. This article is awful, sorry

  4. Marcus Booth

    I struggle to see how a person with so little knowledge can write an article on such content. It appears that not only have you got a lot of the facts wrong but have missed the remainder off. One of the main points is that ss is suppose to provide ‘excellence’, which should not be at the cost of certain clubs, but in addition. If it wasn’t about money they could have laid a 3G somewhere else: the website bangs on about the 45 acres they have. The fact the remains that even if the pitch gets relaid it won’t be for one or two years, leaving the current student with a poor surface which they do not only ‘train’ on (as football and rugby do) but also play on, in some cases at least 6 times a week.

  5. Toby

    I find it astonishing how delusional you appear to be Arnold.Your whole argument is flawed and based on an immature and a most ignorant premise… “it’s only hockey”. If Sport Sheffield would have relayed the top pitch to a suitable standard which was promised there would not be an issue, the top pitch would would have been used by lacrosse, football, football, ultimate frisbe and hockey.

    Unlike your flimsy arguemnt, I don’t wish to prioritize hockey over other sports and neither do the hockey club.

    Whilst your stance , centred around ‘participation’ is completely false, our main concern lies in a frightening knock-on effects the hockey club will feel as a result of the sub par single surface.

    We feel we have been let down by Sport who have strayed far from an original promise of an improvement in surface and excellence. Instead, The Hockey club have been left to stagnate.

  6. The Mole

    I was keen to read this piece in the interest of balance. I find none however. You appear to have a very uncritical opinion of the decision to re-turf with 3G, but you do not have sufficient journalistic integrity to state whether you are a member of any other student sports club. You have also conveniently overlooked the links to the wider community, beyond the ivy-clad walls of the University, which are threatened by the removal of a hockey compatible pitch. How many university students in other sports can lay claim to having competed at national league level, as players from SUMHC have done in the last 5 years?

    It’s only hockey? Beneath contempt. Would you suggest that the university close the pool because it’s only swimming.

    As a nation we have thrown resources at football, and to what end? What success have we achieved internationally, compared to all the other Olympic sports?

    Open your eyes Arnold. There’s an entire universe of sport beyond the hyperbolic world of football, and it deserves support from publicly funded bodies like Sheffield University.

    Surely you can do better than this drivel?

  7. Rob w

    Dear Arnold Bennet

    This article is terribly written. If you are thinking of pursuing a career in journalism I would quit now. The one sided argument and agressive nature makes it look like something from the Daily Mail. We don’t need any more biased opinionated idiots in journalism so leave tour opinions to your facebook status.


  8. Arnold Bennett

    Well firstly, as to the things I didn’t include, the article was written for a newspaper with finite space so I wasn’t able to write as much as I wanted.

    Secondly, I’m not one of the sports editors who produced the story, I was simply asked to write my opinion on having a 3G pitch in place of a hockey one. I was given some quotes from the current sports officer, as well as a statement from the Hockey club and I set to work.

    My comment about participants seems to be one of major contention. I’m not referring to the overall size of the hockey club, versus the individual size of the football or rugby club, I’m talking about the overall number of students who will want to use these pitches for any number of sports, combined, and not solely for club use.

    To clarfiy, and I’ve heard people talk about me being a football fan, I don’t play in any University sports club. Not football, rugby or, surprisingly, hockey. I do however use the Sports Sheffield facilities numerous times in the week for recreational use. What I’ve noticed, especially on the top pitches is that they are used for football as much as they are for hockey, if not more. More people are turning up to play sports other than hockey, from anecdotal evidence (which is what we’re all speaking from), on pitches that currently only benefit hockey, but even that can be argued.

    I’m clear that I don’t think the pitches are up to any high standard and that the remaining one should be relaid. It’s atrocious. Far too hard and even in a sport that isn’t contact based still dangerous. We played a football tournament for our course on there not two weeks ago and there were plenty of injuries solely because of the surface not being good enough.

    My argument isn’t for the other University Sports Clubs (not primarily), it’s for the students who live in and around the student areas who want to go and play their favourite sports on suitable facilities.

    I’m happy to talk to people about the issue and clarify my opinion on this subjective piece, as I’ve done on Twitter to those who oppose it. Which is fine, discussion’s good.

    For someone who mentioned it, what surfaces are available that cater to both the contact sports and Hockey, that are suitable in all weather conditions?

    • The Mole

      Arnold, I feel I must counter your conjecture with some cold, hard facts.

      First, the pitches are in fact in use for hockey ALL WEEKEND, and on at least 3 nights during the week – for club training and intra-mural hockey (not to mention afternoon use by the local schools who use the pitches). If you only see football played there, it’s probably because you’re there on a football night.

      Second, there are plenty of students whose favourite sport is not football. For example, Sport England’s Active People Survey and Market Segmentation Data demonstrate that demand for hockey in the vicinity of Goodwin is well above the national average.

      Third, the students who live in and around student areas have plenty of facilities to choose from. There are full size 3G facilities in Crookes and Crosspool, and Sheffield Wednesday will shortly begin construction on another two adjacent to Penistone Road, which will be available for community hire. Your comments betray a depressing ignorance of the city beyond the cosy confines of the university.

      You have also overlooked the argument regarding public funding for a sport which can stand on its own two feet financially. The cost of relaying the pitch at Goodwin is the equivalent of one week’s wages for an average premier league player (and there are plenty of those swilling about).

      But this is to ignore the reason why you have angered so many people with your piece. Quite apart from your lack of factual evidence to back up your admittedly subjective assertions, if you set out to be so deliberately dismissive, please don’t feign indignation when your targets respond in kind.

  9. Chris Thomas

    ‘Nobody can argue that a 3G pitch capable of supporting the aforementioned contact sports, including football and rugby (the two most popular sports within Sports Sheffield) is less valuable to the student community than a pitch which primarily benefits hockey, and hockey alone.’

    You can’t really claim this to be true. I know a lot of footballers who prefer to play on astro over 3G, myself included. During this debate it has also been noted that lacrosse prefer traditional astro too. I also can’t personally see why a rugby team would want to train on anything other than grass, but as I don’t play, I can’t comment on that issue.

    Traditional astro caters for just as many, if not more, sports than 3G. If they wanted a little more money they could even paint tennis courts onto the astro as I have seen this done to good effect elsewhere.

    This article also completely ignores the fact that the remaining astro pitch is sub-standard.

  10. Arnold Bennett

    Firstly, by the other astro pitch do you mean the remaining hockey pitch? I state in my article that it’s atrocious and should be relaid. It’s near the end, a few paragraphs from the bottom. Not sure why the formatting is so messed up, I didn’t transfer the article over.

    As for your astro turf argument, well, I completely agree. If there’s a way of accommodating hockey and the other sports then I’m all for it. I can’t say I personally prefer astro turf to 3G myself, I feel 3G replicates grass far better than astro turf and is easier on the ankles.

    Are you saying that people prefer to play on the top pitches for contact sports, rather than a 3G one? Anecdotally I’ve yet to hear that myself. The consensus I get is that the top pitches are awful in general, for all sports.

    As it is however I was told to write my opinion based on this 3G pitch that is being laid. And I was told to write it in the match-debating style, whereby two opinions clash which hopefully offers a balanced argument. And I was told to fit it into 400 words.

    I feel like my opinion stands out for numerous reasons, firstly for the line ‘it’s only hockey’, which I now regret. Not because it’s isn’t my personal opinion, but because it’s being construed that I hold contempt towards hockey, which I don’t. I’m apathetic, which should offend anyone. I don’t care for Buddism, but that’s not to say it’s in any way an inadequate religion. And this is exactly the criteria Sport decided they wanted for this very piece. Someone who cares greatly for hockey, and someone who’s apathetic towards it. And the actual argument isn’t about Hockey, before anyone claims that someone uninterested with the sport should be stating his opinion, the argument is about a new 3G pitch, which is already currently being laid.

    People have said my argument is offensive, and holds contempt but I feel it’s exactly the opposite. I make it clear I don’t presume to say the sport’s inferior to any other sport, I make clear that under the assurances I was given during my ‘research’, pitch time wouldn’t be restricted for the hockey club and I make it clear that the remaining surface should be relaid.

  11. Arnold Bennett

    To clarify my error in that last comment, I mean me being apathetic should NOT offend anyone.

  12. Matt

    I’m not quite sure why you have been burdened with the task of passing an opinion upon the pitch situation coming from such a detached position as a member of no University sports club.
    Your decision to state ‘it’s only hockey’ is, I’m afraid, a piece of very immature and weak journalism. There are countless other ways to phrase your opinion without alienating the hockey community, who even you manage to recognise are victim of very unfortunate circumstance with the recent developments. Your semblance of an argument will have been lost on many as a result of your choice words, which is a great shame, Arnold.
    Anyway, enough of marking your work.
    It is incredibly interesting to note in your comment that the surface is not good enough for your football kick-about, yet it is a good decision by Sport Sheffield to leave the hockey club with that same top pitch, and choose to replace the surface much preferable for hockey with a 3G. I presume the next couple of years (at least) of hockey on such a sub standard pitch will render less important injuries to those who play ‘only hockey.’
    Unfortunately you have missed the essence of the hockey club’s issue. The argument is not that the hockey club has a divine right to ‘two hockey pitches rather than two 3G ones.’ The hockey club, as you so astutely note, recognised the benefit of 3G for many others. The crux of the argument is not that we are left with one pitch only, but that the pitch has been left is incredibly poor.
    I can tell you for a fact, two high performance (national) hockey players have changed their University preference as a consequence of the pitch decision. I wonder how many students have decided Sheffield is actually now the place for them because they can have a lunchtime kick about on a 3G pitch, safe in the knowledge that it used to be a half decent hockey pitch rather than a substandard astro-turf.
    Might I suggest you have rather guessed the argument that the hockey club is putting up, rather than properly researching it?

  13. Chris Thomas

    Thank you for replying and apologies for missing the line about the poor quality of the top pitch. Please do not consider my comment as a personal attack on yourself.

    My main point however is that you seem to imply that astro is only of any use to hockey – ‘and hockey alone’. Together we have listed several sports that can play on astro and most of these can also play on other surfaces. Hockey can’t.

    I did not suggest that ‘contact sports’ would prefer astro over 3G. That would be absurd. I just fail to understand why a rugby team or similar would want to train on any other surface than grass.

    On a side note (as, in practice, football is no more a contact sport than hockey), whilst I say I prefer to play football on astro over 3G, grass is better still. If you want something that replicates grass, why not play on grass? For free?

    • The Mole

      Indeed Chris. Hockey is classed as a contact sport.

      In addition, the football community should be arguing for more investment in better quality grass pitches. 3G pitches are a lawsuit waiting to happen – how long before a rugby player has his/her face squashed into the turf, and gets some rubber crumb in their eyes?

  14. Arnold Bennett


    I wrote the piece because the Sports section needed an opinion on the 3G pitch that argued for it’s development. I hold that view and I work on Forge, albeit in a separate capacity. I was in the office in the evening and the article needed writing so I wrote it. The issue’s not solely a matter of hockey, it’s a matter of sport. Whilst I don’t engage with hockey personally (again not because I’m contemptuous, rather apathetic) that doesn’t disqualify me from holding an opinion on the 3G pitch.

    I agree that it was a mistake to use the wording “it’s only hockey”, and when I wrote it I leaned over to the sports editors where we all decided it was controversial. I included it however as I thought my admission that I don’t engage with the sport would inform people that my opinion’s not based on the quality of the sport, but more my own lack of engagement with it.

    This is my opinion. I am one person. Hockey isn’t hugely important to me, thus I hold the opinion that I do. People seem offended by this, but this is the exact criteria Forge needed to write this piece. People seem adamant to ignore the format of Match-debating, and that it’s a ‘for and against’ style. As we were aware the Hockey Club are most vocal on the issue, and specifically with the piece that argues against the favour of the club.

    I understand the club’s frustration at being stripped of a pitch, but at the same time from my perspective of someone who doesn’t partake in University Sports Clubs (but does play sport), I hold a different opinion.

    I’ve reiterated time and again that the remaining surface is inadequate and should be relaid, which, along with Ben Baldwin’s assurance that club pitch time won’t be reduced left me feeling happy with the article I wrote. If I felt the Hockey club were being massively damaged by the adjustments given the information currently available I wouldn’t have held such an opinion. Yet again, this is ignored.

    Lastly, it’s not my job to argue entirely around the hockey club’s issue. In my 400 words I must present my own opinion, as a student who plays contact sports and doesn’t feel the previous two astro turf pitches were adequate for that. Secondly to that the decision for someone to change their University based on sports facilities may be a damaging one for the hockey club, and I respect your personal frustration at that, but I’ll always be adamant that people should choose their University on it’s academic merits rather than its sporting ones. I’m glad we distinguish ourselves from America in this case. If someone were refused entry to the University because someone came here to primarily join a sports club I’d be annoyed.

  15. Arnold Bennett


    I don’t consider your comments as personal attacks, although i have seen some on the Hockey Facebook group which do dismay me. It seems perceived anonymity changes people’s attitude.

    Regarding the top astro pitches, other sports can be played on them but it’s far from ideal. In my own opinion I’d rather see that replaced with a surface that does suit contact sports where hitting the floor is a major part of the game.

    Grass is obviously the ideal surface, however it’s incredibly difficult to find grass that’s A) Unused B) Flat C) Not rendered unplayable by adverse weather and D) trimmed for playing.

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