It’s time we Met with Mother Nature
Two weeks ago we reported on Cardiff & Met HC’s plight as they dealt with losing nine players to the recent World League.
From a seemingly impregnable position, the Conference West side slid in the final run-in and they finished runners-up.
Then, on the final day of the season, a 16-hour delay on the M5 after a lorry fire forced six Cheltenham HC players to turn back on the hard shoulder and miss their game against Team Bath Buccaneers, the Conference West league leaders.
All Team Bath needed to do was win the game – any other result and Cardiff & Met could have taken their place in this month's play-offs. To their credit, Team Bath didn’t approach the technical delegate and make their case for a walkover. They focused on the task in hand.
Cheltenham were mid-table but they had pride at stake. They had denied Cardiff promotion the previous season and wanted to put on a show against Team Bath.
Furthermore, this was the last game for a chunk of their players. Being told to turn around and miss the game due to motorway fire – they had all left in good time – was not a memory they wanted to cherish.
The extent of the delays would still have meant the players missing any prolonged pushback time. However hockey, unlike elite rugby, is constricted at some clubs due to booked astroturf and time slots for matches.
The final day also saw all games starting at 2pm. But there was no mercy from England Hockey. When told they had ten players, Cheltenham were told to play on. Lucky for the governing body, then, that Cheltenham had secured league safety two weeks’ previously.
The TD on the day had nothing in the rulebook relating to motorway delays or similar. So what would have happened if the coach had told one of the cars to turn around leaving his side with, say, six players?
With Cardiff ’s title aspirations squashed and Cheltenham’s damp squib on the last day (they lost 7-0 to Team Bath), surely England Hockey should rethink the rules on both of these cases?
Stephen Barlow, England Hockey’s competitions manager, said: “Clubs supported a move away from postponements or nonscheduling of matches where players are away on international duty. We have not had a regulation of that nature since 2006-07.”
A decade on and Wales – Cardiff have more reason to feel aggrieved over some top English clubs – are now on an upward trajectory.
So too motorway traffic and clubs facing modern day elements. Sense has to prevail.