Hockey Ireland and the IHUA confirmed jointly on Friday evening that the IHUA will appoint umpires to the EYHL matches scheduled for September 30 and matches will, therefore, go ahead.
Their joint statement said: “Irish Hockey and the Irish Hockey Umpires Association (IHUA) have been in positive discussions about a number of topics.
“Significant progress has been made and both organisations are very happy that the EYHL competition will commence on 30 September. The Boards of Hockey Ireland and the IHUA will meet on October 1 to continue the good work that has been done over the last week.”
It means the women’s competition will start on the third week of fixtures originally scheduled with nine matches to be refixed while the men will start on week two with five matches to find a new date.
“We are already working on the objective of getting the back matches played before Christmas and will be in touch with clubs as quickly as possible,” added the statement. “Some double header activity will likely be required and we will look to ensure that this is as disruption as possible.
“Many thanks to all for your patience and also for the many nice notes of support and understanding.”
It is a resolution that looked a long way off on Friday morning after both the EY Hockey Leage working group and the IHUA raised frustrations in the wake of a productive conference call on Tuesday evening.
Agreement in principle was reached over the rate of expenses for umpires of the EYHL but not for cup competitions. With that issue unresolved, it meant no appointments were made for this weekend’s matches, something which frustrated the EYHL Working Group in a letter addressed to the clubs.
The stance was condemned by the IHUA’s Warren McCully in a press release from his organisation.
“The conference call was the first significant contact between representatives of the Board of Hockey Ireland and the IHUA Executive Committee, to finally address the huge crisis facing umpiring in Ireland.
“During these discussions on Tuesday, IHUA emphasised the need for all umpiring issues within the four-year umpire plan to be implemented through a close working relationship with the Board of Hockey Ireland.
“At the conclusion of the lengthy discussions, everyone agreed that good progress had been made and it was agreed that those representing the Board of Hockey Ireland would forward a proposal to IHUA in relation to the umpire expenses issue, for consideration by the IHUA Executive.”
From there, the IHUA phoned Hockey Ireland CEO Jerome Pels to inform him of their difficulties in accepting the proposal “as we had an absolute responsibility for the interests of all our members”.
During this call, the chair of the IHUA said they would ask their members to reconsider their availability for appointments, commencing on September 30.
“Before a formal response was communicated to the Board of Hockey Ireland, an email was put into the public domain by the IHL working group. This communication has distorted the facts and is a breach of trust and does not accurately reflect what was agreed at the conference call.
“IHUA has made significant efforts to have the issues facing umpiring in Ireland dealt with for a number of years and we are therefore most concerned about the unfair pressure that is being placed on our Association and its members, given the inaction in recent years.
“The communication from the EYHL working group [to the clubs], in the view of IHUA Executive, is an attempt to create division within both the membership of IHUA and the membership of Hockey Ireland, particularly the EYHL teams.
“The intervention was very damaging and the content of the communication may have harmed the trust that appeared to exist as a result of the conference call [on Tuesday]. Furthermore, it has the potential to reverse the good work done by IHUA representatives and the board of Hockey Ireland to resolve matters.
“Despite this, the IHUA remains committed to seeking a resolution with the Board of Hockey Ireland and the resumption of hockey at national level.”
In the interim, despite the divided stances of the two bodies, an interim agreement appears to have been thrashed out and the national competitions will be able to get underway next weekend.