Hockey New Zealand is on the hunt for a new chief executive following yet another defection from the unsettled organisation.
Ian Francis announced on Wednesday he was stepping down in October.
It’s the latest in a string of recent departures from Hockey NZ.
In the last eight weeks alone, players Brooke Neal and Gemma McCaw have both retired suddenly along with Black Sticks women’s assistant coach Katie Glynn – who was only just over a year into the role.
Black Sticks women’s coach Mark Hager quit in January last year and there has been unrest at the organisation ever since.
Seven former women’s Black Sticks players’, including Glynn, signed a letter of support for Hager.
Francis, who has been in the role for more than four years, was due to stand down earlier in the year but was asked to stay on, by the Hockey New Zealand board, to manage the sport through the initial challenges of Covid-19.
With community hockey now back up and running and the international game remaining in a Covid-19 enforced break, Hockey NZ chair Mike Bignell said it was the right time to transition to a new leader.
Bignell said Francis should be immensely proud of his achievements over the past decade, especially in driving participation growth across New Zealand as well as significantly strengthening hockey’s commercial partnerships and revenue.
Francis has played a leading role in the development of the new FIH Hockey Pro League, Bignell said.
“During Ian’s tenure, hockey has become a year-round game, with registered numbers steadily growing each year. With around 90,000 registered players, our participation levels are now nearly 50 per cent higher than 10 years ago.”
Bignell said Francis had been instrumental in building strong partnerships which have seen commercial, philanthropic and broadcast revenue more than quadruple.
“Ian leaves a strong legacy behind him, with the sport well positioned for the next Chief Executive to continue this journey.”
But the most high profile philanthropic contribution was suspended when Sir Owen Glen accused Hockey NZ of cowardice and raised his dissatisfaction with the sport’s governance over the Hager saga.
Francis said it had been a privilege to lead Hockey NZ.
“I am very grateful for the commitment and willingness of our hockey community to work together in the sport’s best interests, and this has allowed us to drive some real progress. I’m also pleased to leave knowing that New Zealand now has a strong voice at the global hockey table.
“There’s no doubt it’s been a challenging year for the sport with Covid-19 halting all hockey for months, the Tokyo Olympics being postponed, and the ongoing work in response to the independent review of the Black Sticks Women,” Francis said.
He has been with Hockey New Zealand for almost a decade, with more than five years of service before moving into the top job.