England Hockey embarrassment as diversity group member suspended

Vice president of Barford Tigers is banned until December 2021 following series of complaint

A member of England Hockey’s newly-installed external diversity panel has been suspended from all activity for 14 months for derogatory and racist behaviour, Telegraph Sport can disclose.

Dr Sukhdev Gill, vice president of Birmingham-based Barford Tigers, has been banned until December 2021 following a string of complaints while umpiring. Dr Gill had been a part of England Hockey’s diversity and inclusion advisory group since July.

The sanctions follow one of the most damning findings levelled against a British hockey club after Barford Tigers also avoided being kicked out of the England Hockey leagues last month following a 12-month suspension, suspended for two years, after sexism and harassment offences.

A 17-page report, seen by Telegraph Sport, revealed a slew of disrepute complaints made separately by midlands’ sides Yardley and City of Birmingham during a two-day hearing in September. A month previously, Barford Tigers, which bills itself as one of the most diverse clubs in the UK, had released an open letter, co-signed by eight other clubs, accusing England Hockey of “endemic racism” within the sport.

A disrepute complaint panel, independent from England Hockey, heard from 17 witnesses, including coaches, players, spectators and club chairs. In one of several allegations against Dr Gill, EH found that he openly criticised his umpire colleague from Yardley during a game last season where he used “highly derogatory terms in Punjabi meaning ‘dog’ or ‘idiot’”.

Dr Gill demanded his colleague, Yardley’s Alex Makepeace, also rescind a red card, while he did not challenge a Barford player who pushed ‘his large stomach into Mr Makepeace’. A chairman’s email sent by Yardley to Barford relating to spectators at the November 2019 match, revealed “on many occasions it was said in Punjabi ‘break their legs’, ‘hit him in the head’, ‘smack him with your hockey’ which was quite intimidating.”

In another ladies’ match in March 2019, Dr Gill’s conduct was described as “confrontational, inconsiderate, offensive, threatening and sexist.”

In its unanimous findings, the panel directed that Gill’s lengthy suspension was due to “serious and repeated breaches”. Both Dr Gill and Barford, who had “robustly denied” the majority of allegations, have appealed the decisions.

Barford have been encouraged to work with England Hockey to deliver the club’s aim of making it “into a sporting and community model of excellence both on and off the pitch”.

In the summer, England Hockey received an open letter accusing it of “bias” against BAME players. Published one month before the dispute hearing, the timing of the letter has been described as a “clever marketing tool” by one source familiar with Barford.

In July, England Hockey set up an external advisory group made up of over 30 volunteers to tackle diversity and inclusion in the sport.

England Hockey told Telegraph Sport that Dr Gill put himself forward to offer his views and had participated at a meeting in August.

“At that point no determination had been made against him by the independent Disrepute Complaint Panel, so it would have been prejudicial to exclude him – or any individual – from the initial meeting,” a statement read.

Rod Gilmour – Telegraph Sport

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