Ulster Hockey are calling on the province’s constituent clubs to stay away from attending the Irish Hockey Association’s EGM on October 5 as they bid to give an “unequivocal” no to plans for a full Irish Hockey League.
Instead, Ulster Hockey will send two delegates to outline their stance, namely that Ulster clubs will not participate in a full IHL. In a statement sent to club secretaries, they say the IHA has shown “a degree of contempt” for the province’s position.“It is important to reiterate that all of us are open to change and keen to engage in meaningful dialogue about the future of hockey and the way forward with the IHL,” the document states.
“[But] we are not open to being ignored and railroaded into a solution that we feel will undermine our provincial structures and ultimately the future of the game within the provinces and in Ireland.
“Having had no offer from the IHA of any dialogue or direct consultation in response to our letter, this demonstrates a certain degree of contempt for the position of Ulster Hockey and the concerns that we have.
“It also demonstrates that some in the IHA are determined to force through a change to a full IHL regardless of the opinions of Ulster clubs. That there is little change in the options put forward to that which was the subject of the consultation process with our clubs in May.
“That acceptance of either (IHL) option would remove our top clubs from Ulster and destroy our Premier Leagues.”
It comes in response to the recent announcements of the EGM and IHA Chair of Competitions, Inez Cooper, explaining why a full Irish Hockey League is of particular importance.
For Ulster’s clubs, particularly on the women’s side, the main bones of contention are the school’s player and teacher availability on match days. Currently, many schools play their matches on Saturday mornings with both player and teacher doubling up to play club matches later in the day.
A full IHL, with the travel that entails out of province, would limit this possibility. Increased costs and a fear of player migration to IHL clubs have also been cited as key concerns.
Ards voted in favour of the full Irish Hockey League proposal at an Ulster meeting on the topic but skipper Naomi Elliott told the Belfast Telegraph: “I think we have to trust Ulster Hockey on this matter.
“There are genuine concerns over the issue of schoolgirls and teachers availability and, most importantly, how clubs could fund IHL participation under the new proposals.”
Lisnagarvey captain Jonny Bell, meanwhile, added that he felt it was important that clubs debate the issue: “The proposals are very exciting and offer a long overdue alignment with our clubs and the rest of Europe. I think it is important our clubs attend the EGM regardless of their position.”