Winter football or Bandy is a sport that takes its origins from other sports and has also inspired the creation of new ones. Much like ice hockey, it is played on ice, but the playing area can be outdoors on an area similar in size to a football field. The team sport also has eleven players each side and like field hockey, a skater uses a bowed stick to direct a small ball into the opposing team’s goal. Eleven-a-side bandy will almost always be played outdoors, but there is an indoor version called Rink Bandy played on an ice hockey rink with ice hockey cages. Rink Bandy has six players per side, while a USA version has five players. The traditional version and six-a-side are both recognised by the International Olympic Committee. Rink Bandy also created the sport of rinkball and floorball. Bandy is a winter sport and is rates as the second-most participated winter sport after ice hockey. For the IOC this is still not enough to be included at the Winter Olympics. Their reason is there is a gap between the popularity and participation of the sport, compared to the number of spectators attending.
The origins of the sport have been debated among several nations. Russia lay claim to it with the unofficial title of ‘Russian hockey’, while both England and Holland have played the sport as pastimes before it became managed by an official governing body. The English name comes from the verb ‘to bandy’, which in turn has its origins in French (to strike back and forth). In England the sport developed as a winter sport in the Fens of East Anglia. Vast flooded areas would freeze over in very cold winters. It was the Bury Fen Bandy Club who first published rules of the game and introduced it to other nations. The first international match took place in 1891 between Bury Fen and the Haarlemsche Hockey & Bandy Club and in the same year the National Bandy Association was started in England. The claim however, is that the original bandy match was first played in 1875 at The Crystal Palace in London. It was called ‘hockey on the ice’.
The first bandy league was started in Sweden in 1902 and the sport featured in the Nordic Games in 1901, 1903 and 1905. The International Bandy Federation (FIB) was formed in February 1955 during a congress in Sweden. The four founding nations were Norway, USSR, Finland and Sweden. In 2001 the name was changed to Federation of International Bandy and currently FIB have their headquarters based in Sweden. The name change was at request of the IOC. Russia have been one of the top performing nations at World Championships for various age groups. The main objective for FIB, apart from being admitted as a Winter Olympic Sport, is to promote the overall development of bandy worldwide and increase membership. FIB oversee rule making, the management of international competitions and the propaganda for the sports importance and advantages.