Progress made but second week of EYHL fixtures cancelled due to umpiring impasse

The EY Hockey League’s scheduled fixtures will not go ahead once again despite significant progress between the Irish Hockey Umpires Association and Hockey Ireland’s EYHL Working Group.

The two bodies held a conference call on Tuesday evening during which agreement on expenses for the EYHL competition and development support was reached without recourse to a Hockey Ireland AGM.

A further meeting was arranged for October 1 to discuss arrangements for Hockey Ireland’s cup competitions and the four-year umpire development plan.

However, the IHUA said that while the EYHL arrangement is agreed, matches will not be appointed this weekend until an arrangement is agreed relating to cup competitions. As a result of this and the timeframe leading into the weekend, the EY Working Group has “reluctantly followed the same position as last week” and cancelled the EYHL fixtures.

The IHUA have stated they are committed to improving umpiring of Hockey Ireland competitions overall and “believe the level of budget for umpires [detailed below] and the wider support team is needed to deliver on this commitment for the EYHL in particular”.

Inez Cooper represented the EY Working Group in the meeting and, in a letter explaining the situation to the clubs, felt that decent strides had been taken but was left frustrated that another series of women’s EYHL matches and one men’s game will now need to be refixed.

“Everyone left the meeting recognising that good progress had been made and in good faith on what had been agreed and that EYHL matches would happen this weekend. The IHUA wished to consult their Executive and to provide a response by latest 2pm today to confirm their position.

“This afternoon, the IHUA has reverted to say that while the EYHL arrangement is agreed, matches will not be appointed this weekend until an arrangement is agreed on Cup competitions.

“An appeal to avoid bringing hockey’s reputation into disrepute, as well as driving a wedge through the hockey family by umpiring EYHL this weekend while everyone is clearly engaged, was rejected.

“The objective is to hold out for the remaining cup matches, many of which aren’t umpired by IHUA appointments for early rounds.

“As a result of this latest impasse and with the answer received at 7.40pm, the IHL WG has reluctantly followed the same position as last week, that we will not proceed with the matches this weekend utilising the umpires who came forward directly to the IHL WG for the same reasons outlined last week.”

The agreement reached sees expenses being borne by the EY sponsorship money and will be paid from the IHL budget. This situation continues the current process and so averts the requirement of taking this to an SGM to ask clubs to take up the cost.

The increased cost, though, will mean a reduction in the overall EY sponsorship money that is distributed to clubs, an arrangement put in place to aid clubs with their travel and hosting costs. A revised club contribution will be advised to clubs in due course.

As for the expense remuneration, the IHUA will now take responsibility for the Umpire Expense Budget, previously done by HI following signoff by IHUA Appointment Manager. From this budget, they will pay EYHL umpires, umpire assessors, coaches and managers for their expenses.

The expenses will be set in line with Revenue requirements and expected to be within 30 to 32 cent per kilometre with subsistence ranging from €14 to €33 depending on time away.

The Hockey Ireland Board has agreed on a cost of €28,000 for the EYHL competition for the season of 2017/18. This is a 56% increase on the original budget.

“The IHL WG recognise that there is an impact to the EYHL club’s budgets, however, we hope that by being able to get the EYHL underway, clubs can work throughout the season to exploit options to increase their own sponsorship income on the back of initiatives covered at the EYHL recent meeting and on the back of the clubs and WG mutual endeavour to build a bigger, bolder EYHL as we enter season three.

“Needless to say the IHL WG are also hugely frustrated and disappointed with the position being taken with regard to the EYHL given that agreement has been made.”

The EY Working Group will now hand over the negotiations to the cup competitions – which are not under the Working Group’s remit – to Hockey Ireland with a view to expediting this issue.

“Hopefully this will see matches on Saturday, September 30,” the EY Working Group added in the latter. “In the interim, we will focus the time on looking at the very limited options to re-schedule matches, working in conjunction with the HP [the high-performance international teams] and the clubs to try and find fair and workable solutions. Please bear with us.”

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