Cost cutting proposed to save hockey

HOCKEY club representatives from the Ipswich area could gun down the sport's cash-strapped national association at a special high noon meeting on Saturday.

By Martin White

HOCKEY club representatives from the Ipswich area could gun down the sport's cash-strapped national association at a special high noon meeting on Saturday.

The English Hockey Association is more than £700,000 in debt and that figure could rise to £1m-plus, but all clubs throughout the country have been asked to donate an extra £150 per team in order to save the situation.

However, many Suffolk clubs -- and the other 1,700 around the country -- is that it is up to the EHA to extricate itself from the financial mess and that message could be conveyed in full when the vote is taken at Milton Keynes.

Earlier this week, Richard Wyatt, the association's chief executive resigned and redundancies have already been announced at the Buckinghamshire stadium.

Wyatt had offered to stand down three months ago but agreed to carry on and EHA president, Mike Corby, said: "Having discussed the situation again, we believe that it is in the best interests of hockey that he departs now. Therefore, it is with regret that I have agreed and accepted his resignation."

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Wyatt said: "It is a very sad day for me. I have been responsible for a team of expert and hard working staff whose future is now doubt. I would urge all clubs to ensure that the sport does not lose them.

"Without them the sport will lose the expertise which has taken years to establish and will take even longer to re-establish."

The association faces a cash crisis brought on by the adjustment of the audited 2000 year loss to £307,000 which has been followed by a further £423,000 deficit in 2001 and 15 were made redundant in February in an attempt to stem losses.

Further cost cutting is in hand with fewer and different national competitions being proposed, coupled with fewer regional development officers.

Should the proposal for the extra cash per team be approved, it would have a serious on impact for clubs at all levels.

Both Ipswich and Ipswich East Suffolk, who last season each ran nine league teams, would have to stump up an extra £1,350 while Felixstowe's six teams would cost them £900 more.

In the Suffolk League, clubs such as Christchurch, Castaways and Carlton Park would have to find another £300 and for many like them around the country it could spell the end should the proposal be approved.

Ipswich chairman, Richard Wrinch, said today: "Without doubt, the whole situation is a total mess. I'm pleased heads have rolled as there is no way our club would have supported any move unless action had been taken.

"We have not yet decided which way to vote and it's unlikely we will until we have heard everything that will be said at the meeting. My opinion is that there is a groundswell of opinion that clubs should not support the mandate, but they might once they have heard the full facts.

"Right now, I don't believe the majority of the clubs in the country would back the proposal, but time will tell. Certainly the grass roots of hockey need to be supported as that is where most of the work is done."

If the vote goes against the EHA, the impact on hockey would be serious, with the chairmen of regioinal divisions required to do a lot of extra work during the next few months in order for the competitions to continue or be drastically reorganised.

The national league could also be seriously affected by a "no" vote and it is possible that competition might have to be regionalised in order to cut clubs' costs.

Ian Brown, chairman of the Suffolk Hockey Association, said: "At first, the initial emotions were those of bloody-mindedness, but cooler heads have prevailed since then and now several feel that the association should be helped.

"They recognise that we all need a national association, but they will all want assurances that this sort of thing never happens again."

Only one motion has been tabled for the meeting, but Brown believes that some sort of compromise will be reached – even if the original motion is defeated.

"Our county wants to see some sort of solution reached and ensure that matters are put properly in place for the future. The mood in Suffolk is more conciliatory now than at first and I am optimistic that a reasonable conclusion will be reached," he added.

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