In a surprise move, yesterday Hockey Ireland imposed in full the suspended sanctions they had handed out to three Cork hockey clubs several weeks ago.
At various stages Church of Ireland, UCC and Harlequins women’s side said they were not fulfilling EY Irish Hockey League fixtures due to concerns at having to travel to Dublin when they were at higher restrictions than the rest of the country.
Harlequins have been handed 5-0 defeats for two EY IHL matches they did not fulfil following an appeal by Muckross Hockey Club against the suspension of the sanctions.
They did not travel to away games on September 26 against Muckross in Dublin and then again on October 10 at Belfast Harlequins.
Church of Ireland and UCC have received the same sanction for their Division 2 games at Trinity and Monkstown, respectively.
All three clubs had initially been given a reprieve with those sanctions put on a “suspended” basis, but Muckross duly lodged an appeal over that decision by the Irish Hockey League Sub Working Group.
The appeal cited the new Covid-19 appendices to the competition’s by-laws, circulated to clubs a day before the season started on September 25.
Those by-laws make no mention of “suspended” sanctions with the section titled “Failure to fulfil fixtures” stating when a club refuses to travel, they “shall be considered to have forfeited the fixture” with a 5-0 loss for the defaulting team. In addition, clubs who refuse to travel will also lose home advantage for subsequent games.
The independent appeals board agreed with Muckross’s argument, stating: “It appears common case that the Cork side (Harlequins) failed to fulfil the fixture. The panel takes the view that any team entering a competition must abide by the rules of that competition.
“The reasons for such failure to fulfil the fixture, whilst compelling, are not relevant to this appeal which is confined to the decision… The suspension of a penalty is not supported in any provision of the Regulations or Appendix.” Reacting to the decision, Harlequins player and Irish senior international, Yvonne O’Byrne, said on Twitter: “Surely there’s a better solution? Hockey should be a supportive community where players and clubs feel like they can voice concerns and actually be heard. Lack of consultation led to this situation. Hockey Ireland have a lot to answer for, and big changes are needed to restore trust.” This now means that Harlequins drop to the bottom of the table on goal difference with one point from three games. Muckross move off the bottom with their first points of the campaign, which they gain from the sanctions being imposed.
Meanwhile, Hockey Ireland issued a statement regarding the return of the EY IHL in the coming weeks.
It states: Hockey Ireland would like to thank all of our clubs for ensuring that government-imposed restrictions on our sport are being followed in order to contribute to the reduction of the spread of Covid-19.
While it is hoped that the Republic of Ireland will move to a lower level of restrictions in the coming weeks, at this moment Hockey Ireland do not know what the next level of restrictions on the sport will be. Ulster Hockey is also carefully monitoring the situation in Northern Ireland.
The EYHL Working Group and the Board of Hockey Ireland have met this week, and discussions have taken place concerning returning to competitive hockey as soon as possible.
The EYHL working group has prepared three clear scenarios. The first and most positive option would be that we would be able to use two dates (December 12 and 19) for EYHL rounds, but this is only possible if training can resume in early December.
The board has given guidance to be as flexible as possible in the approach to the playing calendar.
The Hockey Ireland Covid-19 Group, which includes representatives of the Branches, will reconvene next week and discuss the various options. Any feedback that the clubs may have is welcome through the Branches.
Where restrictions are not lifted for the Island of Ireland at the beginning of December, the two other scenarios would be to consider re-starting competitive hockey in early January or later in January. The option of a ‘curtailed’ season may also to be considered if the restrictions continue into 2021 or new restrictions are imposed later in the season.
We will keep you updated as soon as we have more information. In the meantime, Hockey Ireland would like to re-iterate to our members our desire to facilitate a return to competitive hockey as soon as it is possible to do so safely.