The Irish Hockey Umpires Association (IHUA) has launched a four-year plan for umpiring to address both national and provincial level umpiring as they seek to address the “current crisis in respect to recruitment and retention” of umpires at all ages.
Launching the plan, the IHUA state they “remain seriously concerned about the shortage of umpires and the general acceptance of this ever-deepening problem”, something they are keen to address.
“In recognition of the problem, the IHUA has embarked on an intensive process in the last couple of seasons to have a common approach to umpiring in terms of training, educating and interpretation.
“Indeed, IHUA has constructed a defined umpire pathway with an essential support structure of coaches and assessors in order to develop those people interested in taking up this important and enjoyable role.”
The strategic objectives of the four-year plan include:
- Increasing the profile of umpiring in relation to its absolute importance in the game
- The introduction of a single national umpire qualification
- Establishing a young umpire programme
- Ensuring a more attractive umpire expenses structure
- The involvement of dedicated umpire development officers both nationally and provincially
IHUA Chairman, Warren McCully commented: “The recruitment and retention of umpires and the enhancement of umpiring through grassroots initiatives has to be the major focus both in the short term and longer term.
“We recognise the substantial umpiring problems that continue to exist particularly with our provincial umpiring colleagues week to week, through no fault of their own I may add.
“It was therefore vital that any national umpiring strategy had the involvement and support of our provincial colleagues and I welcome their contribution to the final product.
“A recent Umpire Forum, involving all stakeholders, was further evidence of the problems that exist and the need for firm but immediate action. The strategic objectives outlined in our Four-Year Plan basically provide us with an essential foundation for moving forward with hope.
“However, IHUA and the Umpire Associations cannot fix the problems alone and therefore it will take Hockey Ireland and the Branches to make some hard decisions and fundamental changes to help us solve the problems.”
He added, “We will be really busy over the summer months engaging with Hockey Ireland and the Branches to ensure that some crucial elements are implemented at the start of the season.
“We expect to have a new national umpire course to train and educate all umpires and certainly the longer term goal has to be all umpires officiating at any hockey match to be registered and hold a minimum qualification.
“The introduction of a young umpire programme is probably the most exciting initiative given that we have practically ‘lost a generation’ with no umpires currently under the age of 25 years old, which is a staggering statistic!
“Work has already started with Sue Haslam, the national hockey development officer, and this is starting to take shape.
“We will also see the introduction of a more attractive expense structure for our members which is vital to both retaining our current much valued members and recruiting and retaining new umpires into the pathway.
“For some clubs this will be new territory but for others they will be used to the approach of payment for a service. It is our intention to work with Hockey Ireland to ensure that any financial impact on clubs, particularly those involved in the EYHL, is kept to a minimum.
“I think it’s fair to say that there is general acceptance that the current expenses remuneration is not sustainable for any sporting officiating structure.”