Hockey New Zealand Chief Executive Ian Francis announced he will step down from the role later this year to allow a new CEO to lead the sport into its next phase.
Francis, who has been with Hockey NZ for nearly a decade including more than four years at the helm, had earlier in the year signalled to the Hockey NZ Board his intention to move on but was asked to stay and manage the sport through the initial challenges of Covid-19.
Hockey NZ Chair Mike Bignell said with community hockey now back up and running, and with the international game in a COVID-enforced break, it was the right time to transition to a new leader.
“Hockey has an incredibly busy two years ahead. At the community level, we are working with associations to introduce more competition opportunities. We are also increasing the depth of our high-performance playing pool through the development of 100 athletes outside our national squads.
“And internationally our Vantage Black Sticks teams, which are both ranked amongst the world’s top nations, will compete in the annual FIH Hockey Pro League as well as the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 followed by the World Cup and Commonwealth Games in 2022.”
Bignell said Francis should be immensely proud of his achievements over the past decade, especially in driving participation growth across New Zealand as well as significantly strengthening hockey’s commercial partnerships and revenue.
“During Ian’s tenure, hockey has become a year-round game, with registered numbers steadily growing each year. With around 90,000 registered players, our participation levels are now nearly 50% higher than 10 years ago.
“Ian has also overseen our Vantage Black Sticks teams moving from amateurs to semi-professional athletes, and he has played a leading role in the development of the new FIH Hockey Pro League as one of just three national CEOs on the Pro League panel.”
Bignell added that during his four years as Chief Executive, Francis had been instrumental in building strong partnerships which have seen commercial, philanthropic and broadcast revenue more than quadruple to support the game’s transition to semi-professionalism.
“Ian leaves a strong legacy behind him, with the sport well positioned for the next Chief Executive to continue this journey.”
Francis said it was a privilege to lead hockey throughout New Zealand.
“I am very grateful for the commitment and willingness of our hockey community to work together in the sport’s best interests, and this has allowed us to drive some real progress. I’m also pleased to leave knowing that New Zealand now has a strong voice at the global hockey table.”
Francis said one of his proudest achievements was hosting the Owen G Glenn FIH Men’s Champions Trophy in 2011 after original hosts India had pulled out only 12 weeks earlier.
“Champions Trophy showed us that we could deliver world-class events at home, and also gave us the impetus to host international events around the country. These events have been embraced by our communities, with thousands of people coming to support the Black Sticks in their local region.”
He was also pleased with the work he had done in leading a whole-of-sport review of the way we deliver hockey in New Zealand – removing the duplication of resources and aligning high-performance programmes across the country.
“There’s no doubt it’s been a challenging year for the sport with Covid-19 halting all hockey for months, the Tokyo Olympics being postponed, and the ongoing work in response to the independent review of the Black Sticks Women.
“But there’s real excitement about the new Premier Hockey League launching next month followed by probably the busiest period in the sport’s history in 2021 and 2022.”
Former Black Stick and current Hockey Northland CEO Grant McLeod said Francis had gone over and above in his desire to support and help the hockey community.
“Ian will be remembered for the development and rollout of the Small Sticks programme, his tremendous work ethic and his ability to engage with the hockey community. His leadership during Covid-19 was exceptional and was gratefully received by the associations.”
FIH Chief Executive Thierry Weil wanted to extend his sincerest thanks to Francis on behalf of the world body.
“Ian has been instrumental in the operational set-up and successful creation of the FIH Pro League. I’ve always appreciated his professionalism and commitment.”
Francis, who was previously Hockey NZ’s General Manager of Community Sports and Events, will continue in his role until the end of October to enable a replacement to be recruited over the next few months and to ensure a smooth transition.