The founders of the English Ice Hockey Community have urged the EIHA to halt plans for unification with the governing bodies, Ice Hockey UK and Scottish Ice Hockey until a plan is in place to take the sport forward.
The EIHA will hold their AGM on 12th December where they’re expected to ask members to vote on the merger with the other two governing bodies for what they see as the right way forward for ice hockey in the UK.
For Paul Ragan and Clifton Wrottesley, who are supportive of unifying in the medium to long term, want to see the plans shelved for now until there’s a structure in place that will support all elements of the sport while the transition takes place, reckoned to be up to four or five years.
“Our message is simply, not now,” Wrottesley said. “Unification yes, but not now. We need to get the sport back on its feet and that will take three to six months and deal with the problems with governance. We need to talk about structure and operations.
“From my personal experience, it will take over a year and a half and two years to bed and the issue with the whole project is that we’re talking about an organisation with over 16,000 registered members plus the clubs.
“That whole process to put in the governance structure, the operational structures and put the people in place and bed in, that’s going to take, longer than a year the transitional board claim it will take. I reckon it will be at least 18 months to two years. My question is what happens to the sport in that time?
“We don’t have the structures in place, particularly at the EIHA. We need to get those in place now and then we can worry about unification. We’re in a different place to where we were a year ago. Paul and I campaigned at the AGM last year that unification was going to be the solution, but we’re a year on from that.
“The last eight months, we’ve been completely sideswiped by the pandemic and we’re not in a position we were 18 months ago.”
“The AGM was the last time we looked at it so I think we need to look at it again, analyse whether it’s the right time to do it. If not, put it on hold for a period of time until we have ourselves sorted out.”
Both men have children involved in the English National programme so have a vested interest in seeing the EIHA make the right move to protect and develop the future players.
Paul Ragan is a name familiar to most as the former owner of Cardiff Devils, leaving the club in 2014, but retains an interest in the sport through his sons.
The other person leading this movement is Clifton Wrottesley, a former Olympic skeleton competitor, who came fourth in the 2002 Winter Olympic games in Salt Lake City.
While not having an ice hockey background, his sons also play in the junior ranks and has served on the board of the Team GB Bobsleigh and Skeleton association, the BBSA and played a part in the merger of the two sports’ governing bodies.
As both men explained, the formation of the EIHC was about getting the ideas and views across that have been ignored by the EIHA, according to them and explained how it came to be.
“Clifton and I got talking one day,” Ragan said. “Both of us have lads in the England programme and we both got talking about the state of things in British ice hockey and where we were.
“In talking to him and to many stakeholders in the sport, it became clear that we felt there was a lack of representation at the EIHA board level and we took that up with them.
“We felt there was a lack of bandwidth and also felt there was a concern from many members to open up and actually speak out about their ideas.
“We’re not looking for anything other than to create a platform that encouraged members and stakeholders to speak out and enable us to go to the EIHA and tell them while we’re supportive of unification, we’re not supportive of a lack of planning, a lack of engagement with stakeholders, a lack of bandwidth on the board and this being rushed through when there isn’t a plan to develop the sport going forward.
“Without that plan, our concerns are unification goes through, I guess certain CVs get a tick in the box meanwhile the sport spends several years trying to figure out how to move to a better place when actually, there are many things wrong with the sport today.
“The EIHC was born as a consequence of speaking to many people and we put a website up four or five weeks ago, which has had over 3,000 hits quite quickly.
Wrottesley said: “What we’re hopefully doing is showing there are people ready and willing to fill that void and step forward. Some names will be recognisable and more and more people are putting their hand up, wanting to get involved, simply because they’ve been given a way to do so by the EIHC.
“We’re trying to engage with EIHA so we can allow the talent and passion to come through and get involved. We don’t believe the governance right now is the solution. You have to put the hands to the pump and help fix the problems now before you get to unification. It’s not the short term solution.”
The EIHC have also issued a survey to get views of people and stakeholders and asking for possible ideas and improvements. This can be accessed through this link.