Is Olympic lacrosse possible?

Anyone living in the UK at the moment – or indeed anywhere else in the world – is more than likely surrounded bby the hysteria and hype of the London 2012 Olympics.

This Wednesday (July 27) signals the start of the one year countdown to the epic event and the beginning of what is sure to be an an endless string of advertisments, merchandising and over the top enthusiasm for 2012.

I am currently working on the Olympics desk at the Daily Telegraph and therefore have been unable to avoid throwing myself into the hype surrounding the Games. Each day brings

new athlete facts, sporting rules and regulations and news stories about the latest ticketing disaster. Don’t get me wrong, I myself am not immune to the excitement of the ocassion and spending every working hour submerged in Olympic trivia has done nothing but stoke my enthusiasm for the Games.

Learning about all the different qualifying criteria and intricacies behind each sport has lead me to wonder, however, whether it is possible for lacrosse to ever truly become an Olympic sport. Having played lacrosse for many years, I would love to see the sport recognised on an international level beyond the immediate lacrosse community – i.e. at an elite level other than the World Championships, where the sport’s top athletes can compete alongside other similarly talented athletes from other sports.

Lacrosse featured as an Olympic sport in 1904 and 1908

For the game to be recognised in such a way would be incredible, not least because it would mean less people pointing and staring everytime I take my lacrosse stick on public transport! For those of you who doubt whether the Olympic committee even know what lacrosse is, remember that it has been featured as a demonstration sport a couple of times before and, wait for it, has actually been contested as an official Olympic sport TWICE – in 1904 and 1908, with Canada claiming victory in both years.

However, in order for the sport to become a part of the Olympics, it would have to go through some intense changes – in the administrative, behind-the-scenes organisation and the game itself. The question I ask is – would the changes be worth it?

The ELA have already begun making changes to the structure of the leagues in the UK and are making the move from territorial lacrosse to regional in an attempt to tie in with the government’s organsation and funding of sport. Understandable, especially if these changes will guarantee more funding for the growth of the sport in coming years. In order to meet with Olympic criteria, however, the sport’s organsation would have to

change again to form a ‘Team GB’ type governing body with smaller organisations in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. Again, while complicated, these changes are entirely achievable.

But it’s the alterations to the game itself that I believe would meet with serious resistance from the sport’s longer-serving players. Lacrosse would, without a doubt, have to undergo some pretty serious changes before it could ever be accepted into the Olympic fold. Firstly, the men’s and the women’s games would need to become one. Same pitch, same rules and therefore same equipment. Would players be willing to make these sacrifices in order for the sport to join the legacy of the Games?

While I know it is unlikely to happen for a number of years – they have just announced that cricket won’t be in the Olympics until 2020 at the earliest and the International Cricket Council have been campaigning since 2004 – it is something to think about

Only men were able to play the game when it first featured in the Olympics

, particularly as so many are keen to see the sport grow and develop in the coming years.

So, I remain unsure about the possibility of lacrosse being inducted into the Olympic sporting hall of fame. What are your thoughts on the topic? Are you an avid Olympic lacrosse supporter (have you joined the Facebook group?!) or a staunch traditionalist who wants lacrosse to remain as it is? Let us know!

7 Comments

  1. Lacrosse will never be an Olympic sport. It may get recognised by the IOC, but it won’t go any further! Not because of resistance to change or anything internal, but because the list of sports ahead of lacrosse for entry into the Olympics is very long and distinguished! The amount of money needed to campaign for inclusion is another thing that will prevent inclusion!

    If we are talking about the changes needed, do the men’s and women’s forms have to be completely the same. Surely it could just be a case of using the same pitch and changing playing numbers from 12 to 10 for the women’s game. People in the women’s game may be against this, but the men’s game is so much more simple and therefore accessible. So if we use men’s markings, men’s offside rules and men’s playing numbers then we can surely get recognition. Baseball & Softball have been included in the past as men’s & women’s events respectively. Same pitch, same rules, just slight equipment differences. This is where lacrosse should take itself.

    From a UK perspective, I don’t think we would need a Great Britain Lacrosse Association. There will be no UK Rugby Union body for 2016, they will just use the British Lions principle. Mirroring that is what lacrosse would do.

    The existance of the FIL – a single international governing body – 40+ international members and a stringent anti-doping policy ticks some of the key boxes. The last hurdle is the sport!

    Anyway this is all trivial as squash, cricket and numerous martial arts are ahead in the pecking order and the IOC is trying to reduce hosting costs and won’t increase the number of sports being played at the Olympics for sometime as they try to do this. It would need a host of sports to be removed for lacrosse to stand a chance. A few should be removed as they hold no importance for those sports to be in the Olympics – Football & Tennis spring to mind.

  2. I completely agree with you that lacrosse is way down on the list of Olympic sport contenders and I think we have a long way to go before the sport will even come under consideration from the IOC, or even from Team GB!

    If there was to be no GB Lacrosse committee, I think the ELA would need to step up its organisation hugely in order to cope with the administrative demands of Olympic organisation!

    In terms of the game, I don’t know that merging the two would be that easy. Saying that the women should make all the changes – play with 10, play on the men’s pitch etc – certainly isn’t going to go down well with a lot of the women players I know! While the men’s game might be viewed as more ‘simple’ the two games are so different that making women play the men’s game would ruin the sport for a lot of players. The men’s game might be more simple but that’s because a lot of the action comes from the physicality of the men’s sport. Without that, women playing the men’s game would be seriously boring!

    It’s all pretty hypothetical at the moment but would be interesting to see whether the ELA are considering it at the moment…?

  3. From the point of view of making it watchable the women’s game would surely be to complicated – and by this I mean the rules – for your average sports fan. The simplicity of the men’s game makes it accessible, not from a playing perspective, but the watchability! I think that has to be the major factor going forward towards Olympic Inlusion/Recognition.

    Squash is a great example of doing everything, even against the views of the hardcore, to make the sport watchable and accessible. The clear glass courts was just the tip of what they have done to make the sport prime for Olympic inclusion. If cricket were to be included it would be Twenty20 as its the simplest form too. Rugby 7s is quick and exciting too. Does the women’s game in its current form translate into this?

    1. I think the women’s game can be made more simple, you’re right, but this can be done without stripping it down to the same level as the men’s. There are a number of Olympic sports – judo for example – that have an incredibly complex scoring system, yet still they are deemed to be ‘watchable’. You’re right in saying that changes would need to be made to the game but, as far as sports go it’s not overly complicated surely? It’s more the lack of familiarity that many have with the game that make it seem unattainable and complicated.

  4. Yes, but look at the entry of ski cross in the winter games. When television networks held forth the promise of revenues and audience interest, that hybrid sport–one that I hadn’t heard of at all until it debuted in the games–was made any Olympic sport very quickly. Is it contested on all inhabited continents? I doubt you’ll find much interest in Africa. Do 75 countries compete? Hardly. I believe that if a sport like ski cross was thrown into the games despite being made out of wholecloth in a handful of years, lacrosse has a better claim to re-entry. Re-entry. Remember that. It’s return path should be smoother for that reason alone.

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