England Hockey AGM

Posted by Peter Kempe on 12 March 2020

Dear Members and parents

England Hockey proposals

You will all be aware of the England Hockey governance proposals which have been discussed for over the last two years.

http://www.englandhockey.co.uk/page.asp?section=2464&sectionTitle=Governance+Review+2020

Annual General Meeting

The annual general meeting of England Hockey will take place on 17 March and your management committee has been considering the final proposals in the light of the extensive consultation we have had with EH with a view to deciding how we think the club should vote.

Decision to abstain

In brief we have concluded that we are in favour of the first part of the proposals and would not want to vote against that.  However, we do not think the second part is in the best interests of our club, our members or the wider hockey community and we should not vote in favour.

Unfortunately, despite requests from a number of clubs, EH insists on presenting the proposals as a whole rather than as separate resolutions.  As we are in favour of the first part and not in favour of the second we have decided that we will abstain and have informed EH accordingly.

The following note explains our conclusions in more detail.  There is nothing you need to do but if you have any questions or concerns please let us know.

In summary EH is proposing:

(a) to introduce identical rules and regulations across England and Wales for all Regions, Counties and Leagues; and

(b) to replace the existing five Regions and underlying Counties with eight Areas and 16 sub-areas.

Background

When we initially responded to the EH survey last year and invited members to do the same it appeared as if the proposal to introduce consistent rules and regulations was clearly desirable and the suggestion to change the structures could be helpful in principle if it resulted in shorter travelling times for clubs whilst retaining viable league structures.

However the proposals included a restriction which caused us great concern.  EH were indicating that every club had to decide which of the 8 areas it belonged to and could not play elsewhere.  Our men's teams play in the London League and the East and would want to continue to do so.  Our Colts play in the Mercian League, Home Counties League and EH regional leagues and would want to continue to do so.  Our Masters play in the London League not East.

As you will have seen, we talked to and submitted our concerns in writing to EH.  They engaged with us and agreed to allow so called border clubs to choose which teams would play where.  We could therefore continue to have teams in the East league and the London league.

At the end of December EH published their revised proposals reflecting feedback.  The original proposals were restated and changes added as annexes.

EH also helpfully appended indicative league structures showing the potential implications for clubs across the country.

When we reviewed these structures it became apparent that the proposals would have a materially adverse impact on our club and hockey in this area.  Please reread the news item from 9 January 2020.

By way of example 7 of our men's teams (M2s to M8s) would have been put in a London N/NE sub-area league with just 10 other clubs and in total 42 teams (ie three divisions) of which 15 of the 42 teams would have been Southgate or OLHC.

Our L2s to L4s would have been in an equivalent league of only two divisions.

The East league would have started at Brentwood and extended to Ipswich.

Both your management committee and those from other clubs wroteto  and spoke to EH to express concerns and EH acknowledged that their proposals were not viable.  It appears that external consultants had suggested league structures based purely on travel times without having any real understanding of the need for competition at the right levels and with the correct number of divisions and teams to cater for hockey at all levels.  EH had published these proposals without any analysis which they acknowledge was a mistake.

Subsequently we convened a meeting at our club (news item 27/1/20) and EH presented more considered alternative proposals to us and other local clubs.  Since then clubs have asked EH to place them in either the revised London league or the reconstituted East League.

Based on our request, the M2s and Supervets will be in the new London Area league.  Our L1s to L4s will be in the East Area league as will our M3s to M8s with our M1s in the East Conference of the National league.

Last Friday EH sent us new detailed proposals showing which clubs would be in the existing East and proposed new London Leagues.  If these were implemented our Men's and Ladies teams would still be playing most of the local teams we currently play in the East league but there will be approximately two fewer leagues as approximately 20 teams - mainly from Wapping and East London - would now be playing in the London league.  The new proposals are not as attractive as the current situation but are a great improvement on what was published in December and would, we believe, be acceptable.

Other issues

As a general point your  management committee would like to support the EH and the initiative.

The proposal to introduce consistent rules and regulations is welcome and we would like to see that  introduced.  The lack of consistency across the country can be a problem for our colts and other teams. We have asked EH to publish what those consistent rules and regulations would be but EH has indicated that it has not yet made a decision.  Nevertheless we would support the proposals in principle.

We do not however support the structure changes for all the reasons set out in our January submission.

The structure changes ask clubs to support a proposal to introduce 8 new EH controlled Areas in place of the 5 independently run Regions.  In order to implement the consistent rules and regulations EH feels it needs to take control of all aspects of the game in England and Wales.

The proposal asks us to vote in favour of an artificial pyramid structure which EH has acknowledged does not work in practice in our region and will need to be adjusted to suit local circumstances. As mentioned,  EH have sent us and other interested clubs the details of how the structure would be adjusted in the East and London but have not amendrd the details we are being asked to vote on.  We have been assured by EH that the indicative leagues on the website will not be implemented but we think it is unacceptable to ask clubs to vote on the proposals when there is lack of transparency with some clubs having the revised suggested league details and others thinking those published will be implemented.

As set out in the submission to EH referred to in our news item on 9 January there are a lot of other concerns which have not been addressed.

By way of example, we are not in favour of the proposals to dilute the quality of the National leagues by adding a further 10 teams simply to have a 1, 2, 4 pyramid structure.  The dilution from 40 to 60 teams last year has not been a success and further dilution for mathematical reasons alone makes little sense.

The proposals do not address where our Colts and Minis would play.  They need to be able to play at the right level irrespective of which Area or sub-area the club is in.  If they were constrained to playing clubs only in a small sub-area they would never play at the highest level other than in friendlies.

Similarly the proposals ignore Masters hockey and do not offer any alternatives to the excellent London league.

There is no practical analysis of how EH will establish all of the new institutions required under the proposals and how and by whom these will be administered.  EH  do not know whether the new bodies will be independent companies, EH subsidiaries, unincorporated associations or anything else. 

The umpire associations will also be disbanded and replaced.  Again there is no practical analysis of how this will be achieved.

Clubs, associations and leagues are being asked to take a huge leap of faith without EH providing any guidance.

In conclusion, we have, we think, been left with no alternative other than to abstain.  Had EH accepted the formal proposal from Wakefield HC (supported by Deeside Ramblers HC) to allow clubs, associations and leagues to vote separately on the resolution to introduce consistent rules and regulations then we would have voted in favour.  It is very disappointing that EH would not allow that resolution to be put to its members.

EH also rejected the request to postpone the vote.  A number of clubs (including us) have expressed concern about the lack of practical detail and suggested a postponement to allow EH time to produce a fully thought through analysis. EH however want everyone to agree the principle before they explore the practical aspects of implementation.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Management Committee

OLHC

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