Quorum achieved for IHL expansion EGM but engaging clubs remains tough ask

For the Irish Hockey Association, the first concern over the proposed expansion of the Irish Hockey League has been passed with a vote guaranteed to take place next Sunday, October 5 with a quorum signing up for the EGM.

There were fears that such a quorum would not be reached in the wake of Ulster Hockey encouraging their constituent members not to attend the event. But it has now been suggested that at least 10 Ulster clubs have registered voters for the meeting with the minimum number of clubs signing up by last weekend’s deadline to take part.

On Monday evening, meanwhile, the Leinster Hockey Association held an open forum to discuss the proposals. It was not a well-attended event with the turnout perhaps reflecting the lack of impact many clubs outside of the top division feel about the introduction of an expanded IHL.

A vote will take place next Sunday over the future of the Irish Hockey League Pic: Adrian Boehm

A vote will take place next Sunday over the future of the Irish Hockey League Pic: Adrian Boehm

Just 12 clubs were represented of the 54 constituent clubs of the LHA were represented with Portrane, Bray, St Brendan’s and Genesis the representatives outside of division one.

Of those present, views were largely welcoming to the idea of an expanded national league though concerns were raised about the impact of its introduction, the majority of which are summarised below.

LHA secretary John Flannery, meanwhile, laid out the pros and cons to the meeting of the proposed league as the branch sees it while also making a “wish-list” for an All-Ireland competition.

He also told The Hook the rationale for the Association’s stance in the debate.

“The elite is obviously a concern for us but we also have to remember there is maybe 95 percent of people will not be involved in the IHL and never will be involved in the IHL,” he said. “Our remit is to look after what is best for Leinster hockey – clubs, schools, the whole lot.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean we are opposed to the IHL. We have stated all along that we are very much in favour of an IHL but, if it is going to be so negative to the Leinster leagues, we have to put our hands up and say ‘hang on’. We can’t support the decimation of the Leinster leagues which we consider to be very strong.”

He listed the plus points of the Irish Hockey League are as follows:
1) Better standard of game;
2) Bigger prize at stake
3) EHL spot as ultimate prize
4) intense qualifying games
5) better standard for umpires and officials
6) Cross-provincial element
7) new rules introduction

On the flip side, the minus points that the IHL causes the following concern were outlined as follows
1) be to the detriment of the domestic (provincial leagues)
2) fixture congestion
3) risk of over-playing
4) cost (known and unknown)
5) ‘Super’ clubs creating an imbalance
6) Migration to ‘more successful’ clubs
7) international players playing outside the country
8) shortage of officials during the IHL
9) fixture scheduling.

As for the desired principles of any proposed competition, Flannery said the following must guide the way forward
1) maximised cross-provincial games
2) increase sponsorship
3) gain more publicitiy
4) provide top class competition for players, umpires and spectators
5) have specified times to allow for maximum number of non-IHL players, coaches etc to support and spectate
6) be merit-based

Principles to be avoided were listed as
1) Migration to “super clubs”
2) Heavy costs
3) Clash with school games and players who coach
4) One fit for all men and women
5) Fixture clashes
6) Playoffs – full promotion and relegation required
7) Reserved places, quotas
8) Cannot have a negative impact on provincial (Branch) finances

With the quorum in place, Ulster Hockey has confirmed that there will be no sanctions for clubs who attend the IHA EGM, a rumour that was circulating in the past few weeks.

“Regards talk circulating in relation to sanctions being imposed on Ulster clubs attending and exercising their vote, no member of the UHU Management Board or the Board itself ever considered such a step,” assured Ulster Hockey chief executive Angela Platt through a statement issued by the Management Board.

Platt, though, did reiterate that Ulster Hockey is not in favour of the current proposal.

“Ulster Hockey continues to have the belief that a full IHL option is not in the best interests of the IHL competition or hockey in Ulster,” said Ulster chief executive Platt.

“The option put forward by the IHA for the EGM has not fundamentally changed from the original option put forward, and on which the clubs in Ulster voted against in May.

“That is supported by the fact that 88% of clubs continue to support that position. Furthermore we would reiterate that clubs in Ulster are open to change – this fact has never been in dispute.

“Following Sunday’s EGM the Board will reconvene to consider the result of the vote and will at that point discuss the next steps in the best interests of hockey and the clubs within Ulster Hockey.”

** For more on the IHL debate, check out the following links:

– How social media reacted to the IHL debate
– Ulster Hockey call on clubs to stay away from EGM
– Cooper calls on clubs to debate future of Irish Hockey League
– IHL to host EGM on future of the Irish Hockey League

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