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Ulster Hockey's controversial umpire rule is amended

By Gareth Hanna

The controversial Ulster Hockey rule on umpires has been amended.

At the body's AGM on Tuesday evening, two amendments were passed to article six of the constitution, the key consequence of which is that clubs can no longer be docked points for failing to provide match officials.

Ulster Hockey’s constitution rules that all clubs with teams competing in the top two provincial divisions (Premier and Senior One) of the men's and ladies' pyramids “MUST have at least one graded umpire per first XI team, to be available...every week during the season.”

The constitution had read that "the Board shall have the power to discipline and/or fine any club, in breach of this rule" and it is that wording that has been crucially altered.

The constitution now limits any potential repercussions for clubs to a fine, rather than a points deduction, a development that Randalstown Ladies' Hockey Club Vice-Chairperson Miranda Livingston whole-heartedly welcomed.

"You can see where the intent is with the rule but we think it's only fair that it is the clubs rather than the players who face the consequences," she said.

"It's the clubs that have to provide umpires and our club let the girls down on that one so it shouldn't be the girls who are punished for it."

Ulster Hockey Umpires Committee proposed an amendment with a variety of alterations to Article Six of the constitution, which was passed by the required two-thirds majority, firming up the two review points during the season (December and March) and how compliance will be assessed.

Crucially, the inserted section 6d had originally indicated that clubs failing to adhere 'may be sanctioned' by the Umpires' Committee.

It was a further amendment proposed by Cookstown Hockey Club that included the limitation to a financial deterrent - much to the delight of Randalston and their Vice-Chairperson.

"Gareth Herron (Ulster Hockey Umpires' Committee chairman) spoke first about the amendment Ulster Hockey were proposing, having taken feedback from the clubs," explained Livingston. "They were using soft words but the feeling in the room was that they have come down hard on clubs.

"Cookstown proposed the amendment to the amendment and then a lot of clubs spoke to back them up and give their own experiences. It was a very clear message from the clubs to Ulster Hockey."

At last season's first review point, 13 clubs were sanctioned with Cookstown Ladies and Rainey Ladies first XIs deducted two points each and Premier League title challengers Randalstown deducted one point.

Ulster Hockey has been contacted with regard to the amendments but is yet to respond.

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