English Ice Hockey Association director Andrew Miller has urged anyone with concerns or ideas to come forward and express them as the vote for unification gets ever closer.
Members and shareholders will decide on 12th December if the EIHA will merge with Ice Hockey UK, including Scottish Ice Hockey to form a new governing body for ice hockey.
But, in response to criticism by the newly-formed EIHC, a body opposed to the timing of unification rather than the merger itself, Miller is looking to hear from anyone with any concerns and is keen to dispel any myths there may be in the build-up to the historic ballot.
“Any change in our sport needs to be done openly and with absolutely, the best of intentions and I think that’s part of the challenge . I said as much when I spoke with Clifton Wrottesley about it,” he said.
“They have some good ideas and I agree with them that, as an association, we’ve been guilty for a number of years of potentially not listening in areas where we should.
“Whether that’s the concern of the recreational clubs who say they’re being ignored, I say that’s not good enough and I’m happy to say that. The new body looks to resolve that by having an advisory group from the sport.
“I also want to say if people have felt their ideas haven’t been listened to, I challenge them to come forward with those ideas, openly and constructively to engage in positive change for our sport. It’s not about the battle for who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about us working together to improve this great sport in the UK.
“Being really open, it’s not clear who exactly the EIHC are. I heard Paul and Clifton’s interview last week, but beyond that, there’s a certain anonymity behind it and whilst I probably would know some of the people who would class themselves as part of this group, I almost think it’s disappointing that people aren’t willing to put their names as individuals to what’s being put forward.
“Paul (Ragan) and Clifton spoke clearly that their passion lies with juniors. My background is in universities generally, but my passion doesn’t stop there. I want to see us having a successful junior programme. I want to see us growing our recreational game and developing our coaches of the future.”
Ragan and Wrottesley spoke to British Ice Hockey to put forward their case on why the vote should be held back, expressing concern and raising questions about the structure of the game and the sport post vote, should the merger go through.
But Miller was keen to state his case and outlined why it’s important it takes place now and disagreed with the claim that it’s being rushed through.
He added: “The sport’s been in a holding pattern for several years and it began with Scottish Ice Hockey joining with Ice Hockey UK back in 2012 and the EIHA have been dabbling around the edges ever since.
“When I joined the board three years ago, the membership gave the view that from an English perspective, we wanted to know what the opinion was among the members so we began to look at what a reformed EIHA might look like, what a merger with Ice Hockey UK might look like and the feedback was clear.
“They didn’t want either of those things and felt they wanted a new governing body for the sport. I suppose that’s one of the misnomers in what’s been proposed is that actually, it’s about setting up a new governing body in line with the good governance principles outlined by Sport England.
“In essence, it’s the go-to model for all governing bodies because if you want funding from organisations like them in the future, you have to conform to that guidance.
“That’s where we’ve come from and some would say it feels rushed. My view would be quite contrary to that where I feel it’s taken too long. Some of the challenges that have been rightly highlighted are because they haven’t been dealt with.
— English Ice Hockey (@EIHA_Official) November 24, 2020
“That’s why this is such an important turning point and it’s a decision that needs to be taken before the sport can move forward.
“Irrespective of the challenges we have with Covid and everything we’re going through, the best way we can emerge from this stronger is to have a strong governing body moving behind us, supporting us nationally, regionally and at a club level and that’s what’s on the table for EIHA members in December.”
This Saturday, members are being invited to take part in an online Q & A to address the matters due to be discussed at the AGM and put forward their insight into the merger and other issues.
Miller is keen to address the rumours that have circulated as well as work to get players back on the ice as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and working with the rinks to make that happen, in what has been an extraordinary year.
“Nothing is going to operate as normal this year, but getting the players on the ice from January and giving them nine months without a season taking place, making sure they can compete on the ice for as much as they can all the way up to September, it gives us the time to shake up our sport so that by September 2021, we have all things in place to allow our sport to succeed going forward,” he said.
“I hope we can dispel some of the myths that have permeated through this. What I’ve said to a number of people is there are people who don’t want this to happen who are sowing doubts so it’s an opportunity to dispel some of it. As members, they ultimately hold the power on this.
“The clubs decide and if they don’t like something the new body does, they can hold a vote and hold that new body to account on any of those decisions.
“That doesn’t change and the key message for this weekend is to answer all of those questions so we can address the seeds of doubt and provide the reassurance that all the plans are in place to ensure we succeed in the future.”
The EIHA have released documents appertaining to the AGM, which can be found here.