Men’s EY Hockey League Division 2 will consist of 11 teams next season following Hockey Ireland’s decisions to create three extra places in the competition following three separate appeals over the make-up of the competition this week.
The Leinster, Munster and Ulster provincial branches of Hockey Ireland have all been offered an extra invitation to their original quotas, expanding the second tier from eight teams for the 2020/21 season.
It comes in the wakes of Cork Harlequins, Avoca and the Munster branch’s decision to appeal against the line-up announced on August 5th.
Quins and Avoca were both excluded from the entry list based on their performances in their local leagues – the former third in Munster, Avoca fifth in Leinster – which remains the criteria for entry into EYHL2.
Both saw that decision as a “relegation”, one which was particularly harsh on the Farmers Cross side who were leading their group when lockdown came, and so therefore not in keeping with the “null and void” announcement.
But the nature of EYHL2 is that it is officially “reconstituted” each season rather than being subject to promotion and relegation.
That reconstitution is arrived at by each provincial branch nominating clubs to take up their allocated quota and it was this point on which Cork Harlequins’ appeal succeeded and Avoca’s was turned down.
Initially, Munster Hockey nominated Cork C of I and Harlequins to be their two entries for the 2020/21 season on the basis their local leagues would be declared null and void. This was communicated to Hockey Ireland who subsequently advised regional leagues should be decided on a percentage equalisation method.
To complicate matters, a proposal generated by the Hockey Ireland Competitions Working Group was incorrectly communicated to Harlequins and the Munster branch that EYHL2 would be expanded to ten teams. This came with an assurance it would have been made up of qualifying teams from 2019/20 season along with entrants from last term.
Under the understanding both Harlequins and Bandon – second place finishers in Munster – would be involved and so, on that basis, the southern province agreed to change their nomination to Cork C of I and Bandon on condition of inviting Harlequins into the extended format.
Because of this, the HI appeals panel concluded that: “Cork Harlequins were treated unjustly, as a result of miscommunications of the position and interference with the prior nomination by Munster Branch of Harlequins, by representatives of Hockey Ireland, which resulted in their exclusion from the EYHL2 2020/21 season.
“In the circumstances, Cork Harlequins appeal against the decision to exclude Cork Harlequins from participation in EYHL2 2020 / 2021 season is upheld. It is a matter for Hockey Ireland to make the necessary arrangements to permit their participation.”
Harlequins’ appeal was supported in part by Munster Hockey’s contesting of Hockey Ireland’s decisions over the make-up of the league, a challenge that was partially upheld.
The appeals panel concluded: “that the competition working group of Hockey Ireland failed to respect the autonomy of Munster in the selection of the teams who are to go forward; intervened in the decision by Munster Branch which led to the substitution of Cork Harlequins by Bandon; led Muster Branch to the belief that an additional team would be admitted which played a role in the decision to substitute Harlequins and, in doing so, a specific unfairness and injustice was visited upon Cork Harlequins.
“The finding made, however, in relation to Cork Harlequins takes account of the specific circumstances of that club and the particular injustice caused to them by these events.”
The panel found “while Hockey Ireland must be responsible for any mis-communications by its sub-group, the panel does not support the appeal of Munster Branch Hockey Ireland in respect of the requirement that Hockey Ireland accept the recommendations of the commission committee working group which is a matter of executive decision for Hockey Ireland and, outside the powers of the relevant committee.”
This is where Quins appeal succeeded and Avoca’s bid diverged. For Avoca, the appeals panel acknowledged “genuine concerns” but said the Hockey Ireland decision not to expand EYHL2 was “within the range of reasonable decisions and reflected a choice made in a complex and evolving situation, where consensus had not been reached among the principal stakeholders of Hockey Ireland”.
“Furthermore, the decision or otherwise to increase the number of participating clubs would not necessarily have served Avoca which was not the next ranked club and, which was not one of the clubs elected by Leinster Branch.”
Unlike Munster, this was “not a situation… where Leinster Branch was led into error based on any expectation that the number of teams would be increased and… there was no expectation specific to Avoca which arose by virtue of communication between Hockey Ireland and Leinster Branch.”
The appeals ruling left the reconstitution of EYHL Division 2 in the hands of Hockey Ireland with Harlequins required to be part of the competition.
To account for this, Hockey Ireland announced on Wednesday there will be an extra team from Leinster, Munster and Ulster on a one-year basis.
Who takes those tickets is at the behest of each province to dole out although the Hockey Ireland statement recommends “additional teams are to be selected on a merit basis in line with the current nomination process as outlined in the Hockey Ireland Competition Rules”.
On such a basis, Mossley would be best placed to be offered the Ulster spot with Rathgar would be in line for the Leinster ticket by virtue of their fourth place finish. Munster will nominate C of I, Harlequins and Bandon.
Whether it will be a single division of 11 teams or broken up into smaller groups remains to be seen but obviously means the fixture list issued a few hours before the appeals took place will have to be ripped up.
But it will, more than likely, lead to further concerns – raised at various points this summer – over the volume of matches and the associated player welfare issues.