Competition on hold until new year; HI AGM reveals hefty financial difficulties

Hockey Ireland has confirmed no all-Ireland competition will start until a four-week lead-in period has passed from the point in time that training is allowed on the entire island of Ireland. 

It means the EY Hockey Leagues and Irish Senior Cups will not return until the new year. 

It follows Hockey Ireland’s Covid-19 Group’s meeting today regarding Covid-19 restrictions made by the Irish (ROI) Government and the Northern Irish (NI) Executive. 

They agreed that, as per Level 3 guidelines in ROI, adults will be allowed to return to non-contact training with immediate effect. Training must be in pods of maximum 15 (including coaches/managers) and socially distanced at all time. In addition, competition matches “may not be played at any level”. 

These restrictions do not apply to Irish Senior International squads under Sport Ireland’s elite exemption. 

A previous missive had suggested a potential return as early as December 12 for the EY Hockey Leagues with all going well. 

However, with Northern Ireland currently under lockdown until December 11, it means the island’s marquee competitions are on hold until mid-January at the very earliest. 

It means the first option mooted by Hockey Ireland on November 20 is now ruled out and so clubs will be keen to hear what the alternative plans hinted at are.

In that statement, they said: “the two other scenarios would be to consider re-starting competitive hockey in early January or later in January.

“The option of a ‘curtailed’ season may also to be considered if the restrictions continue into 2021 or new restrictions are imposed later in the season.”

Elsewhere, this week’s Hockey Ireland AGM saw the financial auditors state a “material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the company’s ability to continue as a going concern”.

In 2019, Hockey Ireland made a deficit of €280,730 and has negative reserves at the year end of €157,390.

While the directors of Hockey Ireland said they hope to “secure additional long term sponsorship and they expect to increase the income from affiliation fees”, this auditors maintained their concerns and the situation for 2020 is, of course, complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The deficit arises primarily as a result of significant losses relating to the hosting of the women’s World Series Semi-Final in Banbridge and the Olympic qualifiers in Donnybrook. These two events accounted for roughly €235,000 of the total deficit.

In a letter issued by HI CEO Jerome Pels before the meeting, he explained:

“Firstly, the FIH World Series Finals event, hosted  by Hockey Ireland in Banbridge as part of the Olympic Qualification for the Senior Women,  was a financial challenge.

“Hockey Ireland had to secure a new venue because the National  Stadium was under renovation and the pitch at the Sport Ireland Campus was not in place yet.

“FIH requirements, erection of temporary stands and the commercial challenge of the  venue being outside Dublin resulted in a significant loss. Despite the financial implications,  the event was a great success and secured home qualification for the Senior Women’s Team  on the road to Tokyo. 

“Secondly, hosting the Senior Women’s Olympic Qualifier in a rugby stadium and installing a temporary hockey surface in Energia Park (Donnybrook Stadium) was a massive undertaking.

“However, this venue produced significant benefits from a promotion point of  view as it enabled the tournament to be broadcast on live TV at prime time, as well as providing the opportunity for thousands of fans to be part of this unique moment of Irish  hockey history. 

“Thirdly, the Men’s Olympic Qualifier in Vancouver, Canada incurred higher costs than anticipated as the location was announced with limited notice, and the team was assigned a  fixture much further afield than planned for.”

On a more positive note, Hockey Ireland’s latest membership count was listed at 33,521 with clubs are reporting strong interest from potential new members.

Sponsors have also confirmed continuing support and “hopefully we will benefit from the interest that the Olympic Games in 2021 will bring to
hockey”.

 

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