Breakdown of the Special General Meeting issues

Below is a breakdown of some of the more salient points gleaned from the Special General Meeting on December 2, 2012. For the purposes of this piece, I will stick solely with information gleaned from the Special General Meeting. A number of other issues were discussed and may appear in subsequent articles.
At times in the following answers, there will be reference to a pre-prepared document. I hope to have this added to the site in due course. You may already have seen reference to 2013 being a potential “crisis year” for funding on The Hook’s twitter feed. This will form part of another post following an impassioned speech from IHA chief executive Mike Heskin.


** How does the IHA high performance budget work?
For the past three years, the high performance budgets had been placed in the hands of the senior coaches with a brief to design their programmes to match the finances made available by the IHA.

For each of the past three years, all budgets had come in on target, a situation which meant the IHA board said they had “no reason to expect that would not continue into 2012.

** Why are coaches in charge of their budget?
The point was made that a coach’s expertise lies in what he can do on the training ground and during matches. Accounts are not their forte.

IHA board finance officer Julie Beamish explains: “In high performance, the responsibility rests with the two senior coaches. They design their own budgets. They understand what it is they need to do to achieve what they want to achieve. They are fully responsible for those budgets. As long as they fit in with the income we have, they are accepted. If we haven’t got what they want, they redesign their budget. It is firmly within the senior coaches remit to design and to live within.

“The team management control all their own budgets. The financial reviews are done monthly. We are able to account for high performance expenditure on a monthly basis. Up to 2010, there was no requirement to micro-manage senior budgets because they had been managed by the two senior teams. There was no difficulty with that. There was no reason to expect that would not contuine into 2012.

“Unfortunately, in the men’s instance, we should have micro-managed. If there is a lesson to learned, that is it. But we didn’t have any experience to expect that to happen. He [Paul Revington] lived within his budgets without problem.”

** What were the financial issues at play?
At the start of 2012, the Irish senior coaches prepared budgets based on both teams qualifying for London. Once it was confirmed by late March that neither had done so, the IHA made its first financial review, asking the two side between them to shave €50,000 off their combined budgets.

Immediately, €14,000 was peared off but not all of the subsequent savings were made, leaving a serious shortfall to be made up. Additionally, the initial projection for the men’s Champions Challenge costs were placed at €45,000. When it came to booking tickets and hotel rooms, this figure began to look unrealistic with €80,000 being a much more likely cost of the tournament as a whole. This realisation came to the IHA in August 2012.

This situation might not have been entirely fatal to participation in the Champions Challenge had the IHA’s contingency plan borne fruit. However, the potential €70,000 that could have been brought in had their planned Megadraw proven successful did not materialise with the fundraising scheme vastly under-performing, taking in just €20,000.

In addition a grant of €29,000 from Sport Northern Ireland was delayed in arriving due to documentation issues. €13,000 was latterly recouped by the IHA amid the fundraising drive enacted by the Irish hockey public.
Between all of this, however, was the fact that the Irish senior men’s programme had vastly over-spent their budget earlier in the year to the tune of €37,500.

It did not mean that the men’s budget had run out of money but travelling to Argentina in these circumstances would have plunged the IHA into debt.

Given that the IHA has been trying to save €40,000 year on year to claw back a grant gone bad in 2008, it meant that there was little option in their eyes but to halt taking part in what was likely to be an expensive trip to Argentina. The figure was pitched at being €80,000 in deficit had there been no intervention.


** How did this over-spend in the senior men’s budget occur?

While a specific breakdown of where the over-spend of €37,500 came from was not able to be itemised at the SGM, the deduction from the floor following IHA responses was that an unplanned trip to Santander, Spain from June 14-17 was perhaps one of the largest factors. The value of the trip from the floor’s perspective seemed moot with no major tournament on the horizon.

Mike Heskin, IHA chief executive, explained: “Mr Revington did decide to go on a training camp which he didn’t have in his programme and would have to have been fully aware that he was spending money in July that he wouldn’t have later on and there would be consequences.”

Julie Beamish added: “When the Spain trip was asked, there was communication it was not in the budget… if the high performance team make their budget for 2012 and want to move stuff around, they don’t come to the finance committee.”

A subsequent trip to Germany was cancelled which was pitched at around €17,370 had they travelled.

** Who ultimately sanctioned the senior management team’s spending?
As for who ultimately sanctions the spending of money, it remained unclear where the buck stopped other than with the senior coach. The point was made by the floor that coaches will want to spend as much as they can to achieve the most training time and fixtures they can to achieve their goals.

They are not the head of the organisation but get to be creator and keeper of the budget. The following exchange illustrates that there was little control to keep that in check.

Paddy Grimes – where did that overspend occur and who sanctioned that overspend? The management of the team do not sanction spending. They want to spend the money and always will. Someone above them has to say that’s fine. Who sanctioned it?

Julie Beamish – if the high performance team make their budget for 2012 and want to move stuff around, they don’t come to the finance committee. So then it goes to the high performance working committee.

PG – there was a €37,500 overspend – could you please itemise what these were? Can you please detail who sanctioned that overspend?

JB – I would have to separately send you the line items. The spending is done by the team management.

PG –who gives the thumbs up?

JB – if they are abroad, they do it themselves.

PG – Ok, if the team were in Argentina and needed to spend €20,000, who would they call to sanction that?

JB – it would go back to the CEO.

PG – So, I can’t imagine this money was made up of just 1ps and 2ps. Someone must have sanctioned the over-spending? Was it the previous CEO? Was it the high performance group?

JB – While it isn’t made up of 1s and 2s, it is probably 15 activities of varying different values. There is no critical amount of €37,500 that would have required finance committee approval.

PG – At the monthly meeting, surely if there is an overspend, that has to be flagged up sand is nipped in the bud straight away

JB – absolutely, that is communicated.

PG – but that obviously hasn’t been nipped in the bud. That didn’t happen in one month

JB – yes

SC – if there’s 15 things, then where was the control?

JB – if you want us to admit that [there was no control], yes. At the end of the day, we have never needed to micro-manage.


** On the misleading statement from October 2, suggesting the lack of coach and manager was the primary issue to withdrawing the side from the Champions Challenge
In answer to the question, why did the IHA initially mislead its members by stating that the side was being withdrawn due to coaching issues on October 2, the pre-prepared answer baldly stated: “This was a misjudgement for which we aplogised”.

This statement was instantly jumped upon, the first question from the floor asking “why did you concentrate on the coaching issue?”

Dennis Millar’s response was “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. After audible groans from a couple of members of the floor, he added: “We’ve apologised for making a mistake. What more do you want us to do?” An instant response from a couple of voices came “resign”.

Resignations of board members was not on the agenda for the meeting but the issue of being misled was revisited later.
Julie Beamish, the IHA board financial officer, explaining from her perspective how the announcement of withdrawal on October 2 came into the public domain.

“There was a board meeting on Sunday, September 30 when this decision was made. My understanding was this communication was to go to the team and the high performance working group before we made an announcement.

“This was what subsequently happened on the Wednesday morning [October 3] after the Tuesday. I had a lengthy conversation with Ronan Gormley when a lot of the information came out on the table.

“When the press release was drafted on the Monday, I put a hold on the financial information because it wasn’t my understanding it was for the public before it went to the team.

“I will take whatever flak for that. I felt, at that stage, that we could probably called for the funds before we withdrew the team and that was my understanding.

“We did say ‘it would create war if it’s finance unless we have spoken to a few other parties who may be able to address this issue’. That’s why it didn’t go out as a 100pc financial decision. It was a combination of three issues – the coach, the manager and the finance.”


** What controls are now in place?
Mike Heskin explained that in the immediate future, everything “is to now go through the office with Joan [Morgan] taking over full-time to manage the high performance [finances]. “


** What are the consequences of this situation for all concerned?
From the prepared answer sheet, it is clear that Irish hockey may have to deal with the harsh reality of withdrawal from tournaments in the future and a heightened selection process of what tournaments to take part in.

It read: “In the current financial climate, it is more than possible we will find ourselves in a similar position again. Clearly, we want to maintain and enhance our place on the world stage but this will mean carefully selecting competitions which are considered the highest priority.”

The closing line of this statement, though, was contentious and was subsequently withdrawn – “we need Branches, clubs and anyone concerned about the game to get behind the IHA all of the time and not just in times of crisis”.

Dennis Millar said on this point: “We recognise people care about Irish hockey but the board was very disappointed that our local lotto was discontinued and that the fundraising event this year failed to materialise. There’s disappointment people did not row in to support to help get us through this crisis [specifically referring to the megadraw].”

Julie Beamish added: “ I don’t believe anything in this document says the Irish public are not behind Irish hockey; certainly the events of October would tell you that. But I do believe the Irish hockey public are against the IHA board.”

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