It’s time we Met with Mother Na­ture

The Hockey Paper - - FEATURE - ROD GIL­MOUR

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.

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