The news that Holland’s top hockey clubs have decided to restrict the number of foreign players to three because home grown talent is getting squeezed out deserves a lot of praise. The Netherlands is one of the best hockey nations in the world but that success has come at a price.
The big bucks have come in, there is more television exposure (following the sale of top football rights to commercial TV), and the pressure on clubs to win is increasing by the season. Top foreign players are signed up as ‘trainers’ or some other pretext which means they can be paid a salary for playing what is still, in theory at least, an amateur sport.
One young top player, the 22 year-old German international Christopher Zeller, was reportedly given €40,000 pocket money by Dutch champions Bloemendaal for just one season. One-third of the players in the first division are foreign. Top clubs like Rotterdam have seven foreigners in their top men’s team.
The hockey association is right to call a halt. Young home-grown hockey talent deserve the chance to move up through the ranks and play at top level without being pushed out by someone who will score a few goals and then leave the club after a year so. Loyalty is something which cannot be bought. Just look at what happened to football.