By The Hockey Paper
England Hockey’s restructure plans for regional and county leagues will be the biggest change in two decades – if it is given the green light for “clear purpose and leadership” ahead of the 2021/22 season.
Following a governance review of domestic hockey which started in 2017, a working group was led by vice president Liz Pelling to undertake a recommendation for change. It follows a number of clubs putting forward a resolution requesting that EH review the way the sport is structured.
Proposals for ‘A Structure Fit for the Future’ include moving the current five regions to eight areas, having 50 fewer organisations, 100 fewer committees across England and one streamlined set of league rules.
EH say that the roadshows over the autumn received “positive” feedback and “confirmed that this is a once in a generation opportunity to change the way hockey is administered for the benefit of all involved.”
A final vote will be taken by members at England Hockey’s AGM in March with the hope that a fresh structure will be put into place in time for September 2021.
England Hockey’s vision is to have a more simpler more consistent, more effective governance structure in hockey that helps make club administrators lives easier.
England Hockey say the current governance structure in hockey is disjointed and complex, with too many different rules and regulations. If the vote is passed, clubs will see one set of rules, consistent across genders, with better junior structures in place.
The South Men’s League, which is against the restructure, currently has 181 clubs and will have a third of the teams under the current proposals.
The Midlands is set to become the biggest league in England, with the eight “more equal areas” based on density of teams and travel times. England Hockey say that the plans offer a “fairer structure” for progression.
With the South Men’s League split up, three new areas are mooted: Greater London, South East and South Central.
Boundary clubs (M25) will choose one area to play in, while EH claim that 140,000 miles will be axed in travel for London clubs, with a “significant saving” in the offing.
The London League (not part of the South League) and some East League teams would also form part of the three new areas.
Mike Ward, South League chairman, is against such changes.
He said: “We do not believe the proposals are in the interests of hockey in the South and its members.
“Or indeed are practical, and we believe that any decision on possible implementation should be delayed at least a year with EH publishing greater details for consideration and debate later.”
Meanwhile Peter McInulty, of North West Hockey League, said there would be “no massive changes” as the league had restructured geographically a few years ago.
“Problems could arise with some ladies teams in the Lancashire leagues, however, with the potential for several mergers for some clubs.
The Hockey Paper will report on the wider picture concerning women’s leagues in an upcoming edition.
Rich Beer, of England Hockey, said: “The request to do this review came from the membership and these proposals are aimed at addressing many of the issues that players, clubs and associations have raised with us through the consultations.
“Simplification is key, aiming to help make club and league administrators lives easier.
“Rather than our current structure which has grown organically over the years and has become inconsistent and imbalanced we are proposing a structure that allows more fairness and consistency for clubs in terms of opportunity to progress within competitions.
“Our final proposals respond to the most recent round of open feedback we requested from clubs and associations and will provide much more of the detail behind the proposals for those that requested it.
“We believe these are forward thinking proposals that will appeal to clubs and association volunteers that have a passion to improve and update the way our sport is run for generations to come. The membership will have the chance to decide in March 2020.”
“We are probably the least affected region in the country. There are a few concerns over how we retain the volunteers we’ve currently got. Individuals could see it as a good time to give up, but there would be no one to take over responsibilities as there aren’t enough volunteers. But we do need to change things to become more transparent and make it easier for the players to understand what’s going on in the sport.”
Charles Hallows, West Hockey Council president
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