Belfast Telegraph

Ayeisha McFerran weighing up pros and cons of hockey's new ranking procedure

Big change: Ayeisha McFerran
Big change: Ayeisha McFerran

By John Flack

The International Hockey Federation has made a radical change to its world ranking criteria, with every capped match now having points awarded to the winning team.

Previously, points were only allocated in major tournaments like the Olympic Games, World Cup, the Pro League and the various continental championships on a sliding scale, depending on finishing positions.

Now, however, every official game will count, although national teams still have the option to play uncapped friendlies behind closed doors.

Points will be distributed on a weighted basis, meaning, for example, if Ireland's women - currently ranked eighth in the world - were to beat No.1 nation the Netherlands, they would receive more points than if they defeated a lower ranked side.

Under the new format, the losing team will have the same number of ranking points deducted as the winning side stands to receive.

Rankings are important because they are used to determine line-ups for major tournaments, and the higher the team is placed on the global list, the better the draw.

This was illustrated in the recent Olympic qualifiers in which Ireland's women had a home tie, while the men, who have a lower ranking, had to travel, with both teams facing Canada.

The new system, which is now more closely aligned to those employed by sports like football and rugby, starts with immediate effect.

Ireland will be among the first to attempt to benefit as they prepare to play South Africa in three test matches and Germany twice in Stellenbosch over the next couple of weeks.

Goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran, one of five Ulster women in the 20-strong squad that will travel to South Africa today ahead of Sunday's opening game with their hosts, has given the new concept a guarded welcome.

"I think it's interesting, and it gives nations who are not in the annual Pro League a chance to stay in contention with the top teams who get a massive boost in ranking points for even participating in that competition," said the Larne woman.

"I think it's good that it puts added emphasis on teams having to perform every time they step on a pitch.

"However, there is the down side that it makes it difficult to try to develop teams and bring in new players as there is the chance of losing against lower opposition which would cost ranking points.

"There are definitely pros and cons to having every capped game with points on offer, and I think we should take time to figure it out completely and see how it will work throughout the international season."

Ireland head coach Sean Dancer has admitted to harbouring some concerns over the new system.

The Australian explained: "Hockey-playing nations who have plenty of money behind them, like India, are better placed to play plenty of matches to try and boost their ranking.

"However, there is always the chance that some of the top teams will prefer to rest on their laurels and be more reluctant to play internationals."

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