** Words with thanks to Southern Fried Hockey’s Alan Good
The Irish Hockey Association last Friday laid out its blueprint for the sport – and stated its aim to grow participation levels by 20% over the next four years.
Releasing the long-awaited Irish Hockey Four Year Strategic Plan 2014-2018, the national body said they aimed to “deliver a programme that is progressively self-sufficient”.
They highlighted three key visions they wish to have achieved by 2018 – the 20% participation increase, plus qualification for the 2016 Olympics in Rio and the 2018 World Cup, underpinned by eight strategic goals.
They have pledged to investigate the viability of a National Centre of Excellence, although it is not stated whether this would be located at the €19m National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, where the IHA – along with the GAA, FAI and IRFU – have all agreed to develop their own facilities.
Developing a “fit for purpose governing body”, talent identification, the development of coaches, tutors, umpires and technical officers are also addressed, along with improving communication “between all stakeholders, both internal and external”.
The body has also pledged to put together a fundraising and sponsorship strategy, targeting the retention of current sponsors such as Electric Ireland – who back the IHA’s women’s teams and competitions – and acquisition of new ones, to “bring both cost savings and income generation to the organisation”.
The 11-page document was nonetheless a long time in the making and arrived three months late; IHA chief executive Mike Heskin mentioned a need for it as early as December 2012, while at last May’s AGM, he suggested a strategic plan would be produced by the third quarter of 2013.
Explaining the process, Heskin yesterday told the Irish Examiner last Friday: “A working group prepared the document over the last number of years, and consulted with a variety of groups. The draft document was forwarded to the provincial branches for their input.”
While no mention was made in the document of the Irish Hockey League – currently the subject of reformation discussions which could see a move to a “full” 12-team league, taking those involved out of provincial competition – Heskin said he expected the working group “considering all aspects of the possible approaches to an IHL to report later in the year with a proposal for consideration by the hockey community”.
While the plan contains few specific “headline” initiatives, Heskin said yearly operational plans “will provide for the detailed delivery of the strategic plan; the plan for 2014 will be developed over the next number of weeks once we are clear on our funding for the next 12 months”.