Belgium: Belgian hockey tarnished

The decision of the Federation resonated like a real thunderbolt with the condemnation of Leopold in the case of its two Argentinian players. But this judgment will certainly be beneficial for the future of a discipline which constantly insists on the values ​​of fair play and sporting integrity.

On its cloud since the Olympic title of the Red Lions, Belgian hockey is in shock from the affair which is currently shaking the Léopold of Gaspard Baumgarten (on the left).
On its cloud since the Olympic title of the Red Lions, Belgian hockey is in shock from the affair which is currently shaking the Léopold of Gaspard Baumgarten (on the left). – LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ/BELGA.

This a real earthquake that has animated the world of Belgian hockey since Thursday evening and the judgment rendered by the Control Committee of the Belgian Federation (ARBH) in the Monja-Albertario case, which sentenced the Leopold club to a withdrawal for all matches played by the two Argentine players in the first round of the Honor Division competition. A decision which deprives the Ucclois club of the men’s playoffs (and forces it to compete in the play-offs) and which propels its women’s team into Division 1. A complex and technical file, but a fair and intelligent decision for the continued development of discipline in our country. This judgment also offers case law that will prevent some from continuing to play with fire by taking advantage of certain gray areas in the regulations.

Read also Hockey: condemned, the Léopold will not play the semi-finals of the playoffs

“Everything that has happened in recent weeks is naturally regrettable”, specifies Patrick Keusters, the president of the ARBH. “And I am obviously thinking of the Leopold players, who are the main victims in this affair. But let’s be honest, everyone loses in this story and it is obviously the image of Belgian hockey as a whole that is tarnished. And it is very unpleasant. Now, I will not comment on the merits of the case. However, all I can say is that I do not accept the comments and criticisms that are made against the Federation. Clubs have lodged a complaint against the Leo and we have operated our institutions where experienced lawyers sit to assert their rights. The sanction is based on arguments and everyone can consult the judgment that was rendered by the Control Committee. »

The fact that the most successful club in the Kingdom (28 titles among men) is thus condemned constitutes a strong decision. But the facts alleged against Leopold by the prosecution following the joint complaint of eleven clubs (but eight of which are deemed admissible), namely that the two players, Agustina Albertario and Federico Monja, played under cover of a tourist visa while benefiting from advantages such as accommodation, payment of the contribution or the use of a car and payment of fuel for the former Argentinian international, convinced the three judges to inflict a fixed price on the Uccle club for all the games played with these two hockey players.

Further strengthen the legal framework

So yes, the regulations have evolved and the legal framework has become much stricter in recent years to avoid such abuses. But in the future, it will certainly still be necessary to refine the rules to avoid new cases. Everyone is well aware of the path traveled over the past ten years, when some took advantage of the system to hire certain foreign players by abusing interpretations of the rules. “The world of hockey is no different from civil society in general”, continues Marc Coudron’s successor. “We can put in place the strictest legal framework to hope that everything is done in the most transparent way and in accordance with the rules, but we can never guarantee that all the clubs comply with the rules 100%. This is why we must also put in place the clearest possible framework and have bodies that can intervene if necessary. Of course, regulations can always change. We had changed our charter three years ago with regard to tourist visas to evolve in the higher divisions. Does it still need to be adjusted? Maybe… We will certainly propose to the clubs to ban it at the next general meeting. And we’ll see how far we can go. But that will be part of the discussion with the clubs who, I remind you, vote themselves the regulations that are applied. » We had changed our charter three years ago with regard to tourist visas to evolve in the higher divisions. Does it still need to be adjusted? Maybe… We will certainly propose to the clubs to ban it at the next general assembly. And we’ll see how far we can go. But that will be part of the discussion with the clubs who, I remind you, vote themselves the regulations that are applied. » We had changed our charter three years ago with regard to tourist visas to evolve in the higher divisions. Does it still need to be adjusted? Maybe… We will certainly propose to the clubs to ban it at the next general meeting. And we’ll see how far we can go. But that will be part of the discussion with the clubs who, I remind you, vote themselves the regulations that are applied. » themselves vote on the regulations that are applied. » themselves vote on the regulations that are applied. 

Read also Hockey: an “unfair and humiliating” decision for Leopold

The introduction of the license since the 2021-2022 season is also part of the Federation’s desire to continue to manage the growth of the discipline and to put in place financial, legal, infrastructure or training criteria, in order to to ensure perfect sporting equity. The Division d’honneur dreams of becoming the best championship in the world, but not at any price. “In a few days, we will know if all the clubs that have requested it will receive their license,” concludes Patrick Keusters. “It’s only the second season that we have applied this system, but I think we can further refine the requests and requirements following our discussions. Our desire is to always tend towards greater professionalization of our hockey. »

Leopold will appeal without disrupting the playoffs

In the coming days, the Leopold should appeal even if it has already specified, Friday, by press release, that it did not wish to disturb the good organization of the playoffs. “Although having legal civil remedies to act in extreme urgency in order to obtain the suspension of the effects of this decision, and convinced of their right in this respect, the leaders and administrators of the Léopold nevertheless considered that the he general interest of Belgian hockey had to prevail, so our club decided to give in temporarily. (…) Nevertheless, this gesture of appeasement does not in any way imply any acceptance and consent with the decision rendered and the reasons for it. »

The values ​​of fair play, respect and sporting integrity so dear to the Federation and to Belgian hockey as a whole have certainly been shaken, but this judgment must serve as a basis for building the future of a discipline which must to be irreproachable in the future to live up to the results achieved and the enthusiasm aroused in recent years by the titles of Olympic, world and European champions of the Red Lions.

Ghent is ready for the semis

The decision of the Control Committee has upset the program of the semi-finals, which will be played in two legs this weekend. Indeed, the Gantoise takes advantage of the condemnation of the Ucclois to finally find themselves in the top 4. But for the Ghent coach, Pascal Kina, it is in no way a favor. “If the Federation had not also taken away a point in Ghent for an administrative error, at the start of the second round against Louvain, we would already have qualified for the semi-finals. We deserve our place in this last four. So I don’t take it as a chance to be drafted. Like us, the Leo made a mistake and he was punished. There is nothing to complain about on that. Even I am obviously very sad for the players and I understand their terrible disappointment. As we were expectant, we trained all week. And we are ready for the double confrontation against the Waterloo Ducks. The other poster of the semi-finals will oppose Braxgata to Racing.

By LAURENT TOUSSAINT

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