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England Hockey chief warns of financial dangers if coronavirus continues

England Hockey, the seventh-biggest Olympic sport in terms of UK Sport funding, is hopeful that it can refrain from furloughing staff because of the coronavirus outbreak, writes Rod Gilmour.

Unlike bigger sports such as athletics and cycling which will take up the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, England Hockey chief executive Nick Pink is “convinced there is enough for staff to be doing” amid the ongoing crisis.

England Hockey (EH) has a 50:50 ratio in terms of on site and remote staff and Pink is wary of placing staff on the scheme due to what he termed as the “moral question” over the national governing body’s public funding.

Last month UK Sport sent a document to Olympic sports in a bid to gauge a financial status and the potential risks to national programmes, where each NGB was also asked to indicate its financial position via a traffic light projection, ranging from green to red.

“We are in the amber stage as we are constantly managing the risk,” said Pink. “We are not in the red category by any stretch and I know a number of sports sadly are in that immediate risk.”

With an international summer calendar in the offing, the early decision to cancel the Pro League until May 17 – meaning that The Stoop double headers would be affected through postponement – also saved EH making a loss to the tune of £500,000.

As far as the overall club picture is concerned in England, Pink said it was a “concerning time” and warned: “If we are still in this situation in the next three to six months it does change. For clubs it will become an increasingly dangerous place to be.”

As yet, no national picture has been gleaned in terms of how many of the 860 plus clubs might be financially affected. There are likely to be an array of different scenarios facing clubs, given the largely volunteer aspect, coupled with those who run as a business with clubhouses and outside events, down to clubs who run with no home and play at schools or different venues.

A £20 million commmunity emergency fund has been set up by Sport England, the government’s grass roots quango, and Pink has asked EH’s relationship managers to contact clubs who may be financially strickened.

Pink added: “Sport England have been pretty clear with us and what they want to avoid is sport going under from this. In terms of who is in danger, we are gathering the information and there isn’t an overlay of the [hockey] clubs in the country and therefore what percentage of clubs which will need financial sport.”

Nick gave his first interview to THP affer joining England Hockey in November 2019

With the outdoor season over – a board meeting is set before the end of the month to determine final league placings – clubs are likely to face further predicaments with uncertaintly still over whether many summer leagues can take place.

“This is another income generator and Pink was keen to stress how hockey can learn from other sports such as golf, the sport he used to oversee, in terms of leveraging membership fees before the season kicks into gear.

He said: “We have to keep communicating and talking to people. We can do all we want nationally but at local level every club will be different and there has to be an individual and tailored response.”

Having taken over in the role last November, he added: “One of the challenges I have inherited is that we are an incredibly ambitious sport and organisation and it is about doing things in the right order and this is my opportunity to do that.

“We are open minded about everything and the most important thing we do is to keep supporting and serving the game as much as we can and if we need to make decisions outside of that we will.”

TOMORROW: GB women’s coach Mark Hager on isolation and missing his squad

SATURDAY: In the second part of our interview, England Hockey’s chief outlines a vision to be ready for the new season “like never before”.

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