AGM Resolution - Keep club hockey in the loop

East Coast HC
Keeping clubs informed at the most local level will be crucial to restructuring and delivering league hockey if the AGM Resolution is passed in just under a month’s time.

That is the loud message coming from smaller hockey clubs as they consider the proposals within the AGM Resolution and what it means for them and their members.

For the past three years, ever since the proposals were first aired at the 2017 AGM, England Hockey has been working with stakeholders to develop a structure that standardises league rules and regulations and simplifies hockey for all those who participate – including club administrators. Running a large hockey club with many teams, playing in a number of different leagues, is a headache for club secretaries and team captains, but even clubs with just two or three teams also suffer the pain of a complex system.

Deep in the heart of Suffolk, Rebecca Peck is club secretary at Framingham Hockey Club. She laughs drily as she explains that secretary is just one of many roles she plays. Grappling with the day-to-day running of a sports club can be both tricky and daunting so Rebecca is pleased that the proposals offer a simplification of structures. She cites her experience with the club’s newly-formed boys junior section as an example.

‘We have recently set up a junior boys training section but trying to find how and where to play fixtures is really difficult. We have a group of nine and ten year old boys who just want to play hockey. We want to give them games but we can’t do that because we are waiting for other matches, leagues and competitions to be scheduled at county and regional level. At the moment people won’t commit to playing us because the boys are also involved in academy hockey, league hockey and other matches. 

‘Once you know the system, you can work it accordingly. But when I try to find information, I end up just going round in circles.’

For Rebecca, the most important thing to emerge from the AGM Resolution will be a clearer, simplified structure, at all age groups and levels of the game. ‘’We are a small, growing club, with two women’s teams and a boy’s and girl’s junior section. We are trying to put things in place for all our members but we need the knowledge of how to go about that. A simplified system will be much better. I would like to see clear pathways that cover umpires, coaching and league structures.’

Peter Newnham is Chair at East Coast Hockey Club in Lowestoft. The club, which is a recent amalgamation of two clubs in the area, runs two men’s teams, (both in East League) three women’s teams and a junior section.

The men’s teams are currently in the East League, as are the women’s first team. The other two women’s teams play in the Empresa Norfolk League. The club’s junior section is growing, while at the other end of the age range, Peter himself is heavily involved in the Masters hockey scene.

Peter and his committee has looked long and hard at the AGM Resolution, and had many discussions with people from both East Coast HC and neighbouring clubs in Norfolk and Suffolk. Generally, he reports, clubs in the area are supportive of the proposals.

’I suppose our main concern has been around the “clout” that the bigger clubs might have when it comes to voting,’ says Peter. ‘The bigger clubs will get more votes according to the number of affiliated teams they have. That means they might control the outcome.

‘That said, we get the impression that there is a considerable sway of opinion that says “this [the AGM Resolution] makes sense. There may be some details that need sorting but what is being proposed really does make sense. Those bigger clubs will also say that fundamentally it doesn’t really alter things that much.’

For East Coast HC, the restructuring will primarily affect the two women’s teams that play in the Empresa Norfolk League. Again, Peter is sanguine about the impact this will have: ‘If the restructuring goes ahead, then the teams in the Empresa League will gravitate into whatever new league is on offer. That is no real problem because the teams that will move will be the teams that play in the current league anyway.

‘The teams that joined the Empresa League when it was set up were teams wanting local games. The ladies who were playing were people with young children, so reducing travel times was important. That will continue to be the case. It will simply be a case of same matches, same opposition, just in a new league set-up.’

With his Master’s hat firmly on his head, Peter is also keen for a up-to-date and comprehensive data-base to be in place. As Men’s Representative for the Suffolk Hockey Association, Peter is happy that Masters competitions are well organised by the East Region and he hopes that will continue under the new structure.

What concerns him more is that many people are missing out on the opportunity to play Masters hockey. ‘It is such a good way of staying involved,’ he says. ‘And the fitness, health and mental benefits of playing a team sport are well known. We know that there are many players out there who are eligible to play but we do not have their details. Any developments in IT that leads to a better data base will be a real boon to the sport.’

Like Rebecca, one of Peter’s concerns is that junior hockey is developed effectively. He says, ‘Currently Norfolk Hockey Association organise a development league for both boys and girls which we participate in. This has been vital to us in attracting juniors to the game – they don’t just want to go to coaching activities, they want to play proper games. It is really important in the new structure that such opportunities continue to be organised locally – the section in the Final Resolution Proposal (Junior Leagues (& Competitions) is of particular note and we shall want to have some input into this.’

Both East Coast HC and Framingham HC, like every other hockey club in the country, rely on the work of a small but dedicated band of volunteers. Neither Rebecca or Peter see the volunteer workforce dropping off as a result of the restructuring. ‘Our volunteers are there because of the sport and less around how the sport is structured,’ says Peter.

‘We are a small club and we know that we need more umpires and more coaches but we know that we have to work to address that. Providing there is a support there providing the necessary tools – courses for example – then the restructuring won’t affect us. Of course change can be difficult to grapple with, but if anything I would have thought the restructuring would offer more opportunities.’

When it comes to disseminating information about the proposals, Peter and Rebecca are keen for any information to be distributed as locally as possible. And that means through the club’s network. 

‘I would like England Hockey to communicate throughout the process to the clubs,’ says Peter. ‘The information should be locally based wherever possible. It is local hockey that we are concerned about. 

Rebecca is in full agreement: ‘The information should be filtered down from England Hockey but it should be delivered locally through the clubs, that is where the majority of people connect with hockey.’

Have your say in the future of your sport: The voting process gets underway in February, with the AGM taking place on Tuesday 17th March. 
To read more about the proposals please see the following:
• Summary version - click here
• Full detailed proposal - click here
• Area maps and draft adult league structures - click here

AGM Resolution: A Structure fit for the Future - Exec summary cover       AGM Resolution: A Structure fit for the Future - Full version cover