Why partisan hockey news sources need to mind their language.

Field hockey goes from strength to strength and is gradually getting levels of media coverage it deserves. What can federations and other partisan hockey news sources do to further promote interest in the game?  In a phrase, mind you language!

I devote considerable portions of my professional time and commissioned work both paid or, more often, voluntarily promoting and researching  field hockey as a result , originally, of my eldest son’s childhood involvement ( and now in adult life )  in the sport and my support of him and his club and the positive relationships I have built up with the hockey community locally and internationally through my photography and on line journalism.  I am conscious that the game has yet  to achieve the level of media attention it merits and it is a lifelong ambition to do all I can to see that it gets it.

To help promote an enterprise whether sport or otherwise professionally requires both passionate involvement and detachment to empathise and then help in the fuifillment of its ambitions but also examine public perceptions of how that enterprise is presented and world creatively using a range of skills combined with experience and knowledge of the media and marketing to influence that perception in positive ways.

Consequently I act as honorary co-editor of the prestigious , not for profit global sports news ezine and website, womensportreport , and chose that gender to focus us because women’s sport also gets a disproportionately low amount of media exposure. In that role I field press releases  ( of varying quality! ) via email, from all sports , edit, enhance and illustrate and then directly publish. I make sure that field Hockey on that website in the “ball sports”  has regularly updated content and I go out of my way  to enhance standard press releases with images from my own resources to help draw attention to and further  promote the game and a wider understanding of it.

Check out some of my hockey promoting illustrated journalism here  Women Sports Report (Ball Sports /hockey) some of it is based on official press releases. other material is original to me gleaned from my own research from a variety of sources in Spanish and Dutch.

Our own national hockey governing body set an enviable  standard in the frequency and quality of its “press advisory” releases and these can be directly cut and pasted into the website template and require very little editing. I will often add to them additional information , links , from my own reading  and illustrate the report with my own images from my extensive archives. England Hockey’s official and very comprensive website is maintained by a vibrant professional team and news and information is distributed globally  led by industry trained and experienced media and communications expert Lawrence West. Here is also where i come to see what teams are playing , when and where when I am looking for key games to photograph and or report on myself.  England Hockey official website

It has always surprised me how insular some major hockey playing nations are, those whose native language is not English ,  in their use of the internet and media communications.  Surely they want their information to reach the largest audience possible not just those at home. So many interesting features and snippets of valuable information are lost  to most of the world because only the headline stories ever reach beyond  the physical boundaries of countries and there is no reason why language should be a barrier these days. With establishment sports press , for example ,ever more  pressed for time  , the profession relies more and more heavily on the same stories syndicated or shared through agencies to save on cost, and  fewer and fewer journalists have either the time or indeed the inclination to do their own groundwork any more. Effectively if , as a sports news  source you don’t hand it out on a plate, chances are you are going to be overlooked  for an easier option.  I value originality, self-reliance  and do not want to be a staff plagiarist !   So as a volunteer hockey writer , I am prepared to keep my eye on incoming news by regularly reading federation’s and independent news sources  using translation tools. I either use the somewhat crude “Google Translate” where I can copy and paste chunks of text without a word limit , or more recently “Google Chrome” which automatically detects the website language and offers the option to translate it into your own language.  Such tools, as I mentioned only give a person the gist of a story but if it is interesting , it needs to be interpreted and reworked and further information from additional sources perhaps worked in , and again that is time consuming and I suspect few would actually bother.

Google Chrome provides an instant translate option for web pages in a variety of languages

Where time is available I also share considerable news and information through my prolific output on social media sites Facebook and Twitter as well as on my website  Blog section. Were it not for me , English speaking readers of the Women Sport Report website would see much less news from , for example, Holland or Argentina, two of the strongest playing nations in the world game. Because of the demands of my own media business ever increasing it is inevitable that I will have less and less down  time to continue this mission.

I would urge non English native speaking press offices to invest time in providing news both in English as well as the tongue of their native audience to reach the broadest number of people in the interests of their national game.  I am patriotic but not blind to the arrogance of some English speakers who presume the world and its friends should speak English. (I am bilingual in French, and can at least exchange pleasantries in a number of other languages.) But see below the comparative numbers of  different language native speakers active on the internet.



Estimates of various figures for the main languages spoken by net users vary some what but yet it came as a surprise to me that English actually outstrips even Chinese in the stats.

The reality is that , above  Chinese, English is by the far the most widely used language on the internet. Spanish speakers, especially in South America . offer  an impressive potential audience of between an estimated 40 million and  150 million ( people who use Spanish and or is  variants on the net ), but English  is spoken by so many  more people on the net, as many as  550 million plus. There are possibly 23 million native Dutch speakers many of whom are competent in English as their second language. It is all very well to provide native speakers with news reports in their own language but surely the internet has a much bigger potential audience and the opportunity is there in extending your reach using English as well in the interest of your national teams.

As things stand some news agencies do invest time and money translating some major items of field hockey news which are then distributed around the world via e mail or copied and pasted from source. All federations seem to be cash strapped and rely much on volunteers and for example freely sourced images from events.  Most field hockey countries also have excellent not for profit  independent websites which feed additional news items into the net system for fans, and Holland has in my view of the very best and most comprehensive  independent hockey news services in its outstanding  http://www.hoofdklassehockey.nl . The site was  originally set up  at a time when its then volunteer owners were frustrated that the sports national governing body  had a very poor internet presence. To this day it is my first port of call for hockey news from the Netherlands and , in the past I have contributed to it on a voluntary basis ,  mostly with my photography work.  From it I know as much about the top hockey scene in Holland as i do about the English scene. The Dutch hockey scene, especially the top clubs, are  in my view twenty years ahead of us in terms of media awareness and the professional running of top clubs as effective businesses, still amateur and relying heavily on volunteers but often with an industry trained PR /Media officer. Top clubs like Amsterdam have a list of prestigious sponsors to die for and that did not happen over night but the result of long term planning. Things are moving that way  in England and much could be learned from the Dutch model to expedite matters in my view. The essential skill is marketing, making a club an attractive target  that prestigious businesses want to be associated with and sponsor. They use effective websites with  professional photographs and  regular updates and press releases. The Dutch sports media, the printed media get a regular high quality supply of press releases that are usable.

Hoofdklassehockey.nl - in my view the most comprehensive and best independent hockey news website in the world.


Volunteers have two  things that are vital for the game, time and love of the game. Salaried sports media people are always pressed for time and have to focus on headline news and they do not normally bother with any news that is not in their native language. Thus, the most important thing any for example federation, which is non English speaking,  can do for its own game but the good of the game globally is to publish and circulate news in both their native tongue and English.  If funds do not stretch to what for me would be the ideal in saving me valuable time disseminating news to English native speakers, organisations that dispense news items on line should at least have some form of online translation button sytem built into web pages .

In my line of work, the “medium is the message”, and my role is informing and trying to influence public perception of businesses and organisations.  What is the hidden message then of say a news website which is entirely in a native foreign tongue? It appears to me that the message given is partisan and somewhat insular and not  seeing the wider picture or catering for the needs of others who may be interested but who neither have the time or inclination to bother to cut and paste items into on line translation programmes.  It is no accident that this my business website includes an automatic translation facility in the form of hyper linked flags of different nationalities that offer an instant rough translation of my writings. In this sport I devote so much time to we are a  global family and what others are  doing is of relevance and interest to the whole family , not just those we share common soil with. Language was once a barrier but with the internet it no longer is. we should respect each others cultures and language, celebrate differences but we have so much more in common if we can talk and share.

I am actually a former  Modern Languages teacher , taught  French  for some eighteen years in an inner city special school and indeed won an national prize for excellence and innovation in my teaching and for raising European awareness in the school. I did this in part by using my practical skills and photography, photographing typical shops, town buildings  and street furniture as reference and then transforming my teaching base into a kind of replica French town . I also took over an entire linking corridor , ( I nicknamed the “Euro Tunnel”  with a range of displays for each European Union member country and artifacts I had made or collected to promote the theme of international respect and awarness in a non political way. Field hockey as a whole longs for greater media attention but it has to go to the media not wait around and hope. The internet holds so many opportunities to make that happen and it is up to the game to be proactive in that regard – the internet has no boundaries and now no  language barriers either unless you want a press that looks inwards and not beyond a false horizon.


Text copyright of the author and  cannot be reproduced in part or in whole without my consent . I offer a 24/7 365 on line consultancy service for all matters media, marketing and PR as well as writing content and helping with effective press releases. Feel free to contact me at any time if you need professional help in this area. Follow me on Twitter and my Facebook to see that I practice what I preach and to see the range of skills I have on offer for hire in your interests.


I am actively engaged in a number of PR/media projects on behalf of clients who are ,for examples elite athletes in a number of different sports and only yesterday produced a fresh and effective Facebook athlete page  for one of my clients, a former world champion and Olympian, triathlon great GB’s Michelle Dillon to replace an outdated page that had been set up anonymously, with good intent but  in a most amateur way and was able to enhance that again with photography form myu opwn archives – check out a small example of what I can do here  Client Athlete Facebook page and please contact me if you are looking to raise your own internet profile and it wont  cost the earth.



Business Website : johncoxonphotography.com

Co-Editor /journalist (honorary)  Women Sport Report

Facebook  : john coxon.com    and  john coxon

Member of EPUK ( Editorial Photographers UK)

Alternative E mail : johne.coxon@ntlworld.com

Mobile Phone or text  24/7  365 :  + 44 (0) 7989 300 104

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Business Address : 14 Pott Street, Salford, (G.M.) M27 6FR

CRB enhanced disclosure ( counter signatory England Hockey) August 2010

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