Tangled-web of Euro allocations sees Hockey Ireland go to dispute solutions body

** article amended at 11.06am, Monday, July 20

The allocation of Ireland’s European places will take some serious untangling over the coming weeks as three clubs and Hockey Ireland themselves have made appeals for further mediation and arbitration. 

It is the fall-out from Lisnagarvey’s successful challenge to an independent appeals panel. Following HI’s decision to declare the EYHL season “null and void”, Garvey had originally been awarded the second men’s Euro spot for 2020/21 with Three Rock Rovers taking the first spot as 2019 Champions Trophy winners – the last completed competition. 

The Hillsborough club, however, argued that such a decision was “flawed and unjust” and “without reasonable rationale”. In their presentation to the appeals panel, as runaway league leaders, their belief the “best placed team at that time” should represent Ireland to improve chances of success in European competition. 

Lisnagarvey successfully appealed for a Euro upgrade. Pic: Adrian Boehm

The independent panel found in their favour, stating the Hockey Ireland management board “did not clearly appear to consider alternatives to the selecting and order of the clubs”.   

For instance, a mathematical model was used to determine positions at regional level but was not deemed acceptable for the EYHL.  

The ruling continued: “No reasons were given for deciding that the selections and positions of the teams of the previous season rather than giving consideration to alternative methods to try and reach the most equitable outcome”.  

In the Independent Panel’s determination, one member suggested the Hockey Ireland Management Board “revisit their procedures as to their selections and order for European club competitions”. 

In the HI press statement announcing Garvey’s appeal, Three Rock – who were fourth at the time of lockdown – were given the second seed with the women’s placings unaltered, leaving Pegasus in first place and league leaders Loreto as second seed. 

For that reason, both Banbridge – second in the men’s league at the time of lockdown – and Loreto lodged appeals to Hockey Ireland, citing the precedent set by the Garvey outcome. 

Bann’s John Bell said their appeal is based “on the need to ensure a fair and equal process to be applied to the selection criteria. We club feel that this has not been applied”.  

Three Rock also confirmed this week they have taken a case to Sport Dispute Solutions Ireland (SDSI) – the Federation of Irish Sport’s appeal body – to put forward an appeal to have the original decision be upheld.  

Usually, the first seed for Europe is based on the Champions Trophy positions with the EYHL only providing the second seed. There are also questions over how the independent appeal board took until June 29 to sit when HI’s rule 20 in the bye laws would have set June 11 as the latest the case could have been processed. 

With that trio of appeals already lodged, Hockey Ireland subsequently requested for clubs to “pause” their own appeals as they have launched their own case with SDSI Ireland in a new twist to the saga. 

The governing body released a statement on Friday evening to say they have contacted the clubs to put those claims on hold “due to the complexity of the issue and potential implications” of the case.  

Loreto could see their Euro status improve, too. Pic: Adrian Boehm

“While accepting the decision of the Appeal Panel, it is Hockey Ireland’s position that the committee focused on Lisnagarvey Hockey Club’s appeal without any, or insufficient, regard to the consequences of such a change to the broader Hockey Ireland decision.  

“The outcome of the appeal impacts on the decisions, regarding club selections and their ranking, for all of the respective European Hockey Competitions in 2020/2021.” 

While appeals to Hockey Ireland normally need to be heard within two weeks of receipt, it is likely those will be delayed until after the SDSI hearings which could either affirm Loreto and Bann’s stances or else render them null and void. 

The European Hockey Federation usually requires entries to their competitions by July but this has been pushed out to September due to the ongoning pandemic, giving some extra time for all to be processed. 

Elsewhere, the nature of EYHL Division 2 has still yet to be confirmed in the latest draft calendar for the 2020/21 season.  

Earlier this summer, clubs from both the men’s and women’s EYHL2 competitions sent letters to the HI competitions committee to request a full season competition while others have made representations against such a proposal. 

Should it come to pass, it would likely mean taking a number of extra clubs out of the regional leagues which could have a seismic knock-on effect to the local competitions. 

One date that is confirmed is the All-Ireland Schoolboys Championships is switched from its usual late October slot to March 2021. This is for one season only to allow more time for COVID-19 restrictions to ease for the three-day, 16-team event. 

The idea is to return to the preferred October slot for 2021/22, a date in the calendar far away from clashes for teachers and players with mock exams and other schools trips. 

The final phases of the Irish Senior Cup, Hockey Trophy, Junior Cup and Hockey Challenge are also being considered for conclusion in September.

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