Lisnagarvey Hockey Club Chairman John Gray has said the club is prepared to legally challenge Ulster Hockey’s decision to deduct points from them.
Garvey’s hopes of retaining their Premier League crown were dealt a massive blow when Ulster Hockey deducted two points off three different teams; Lisnagarvey, Newry Olympic and Belfast Harlequins.
Ulster Hockey said that the points were docked for the clubs’ failure to supply someone to officiate as an umpire as per the new rule which was voted in at the Branch’s AGM in May.
However, Garvey Chairman John Gray said the club had submitted the name of its umpire by the November 1 deadline, and had received confirmation of the submission.
He stated: “We nominated two umpires by November 1 as requested but one of them subsequently became injured and we received confirmation at that time that we were okay and well within their timescale.
“We have been in communication with Ulster Hockey since December regarding a replacement umpire,” Mr Gray added.
With a deadline of February 1 to name a new umpire, the club received a letter a week before that date, telling them that sanctions would be carried out against the club for failing to provide the name of an umpire by the November deadline.
“We were told that by November 1 we had to name two umpires, which we did, and the confirmation of that was put through.
“Subsequently one of the umpires was unable to do it,” Mr Gray explained.
“We have been in correspondence with them to try to find an alternative Grade 3 umpire, which isn’t easy to do to get someone with the right qualifications in the space of a few weeks, or even a few months.
“We then received a letter from them before the February 1 deadline that we haven’t got anybody and they are taking two points off our men’s 1st XI. Things are strained and unpleasant at the minute,” the chairman added.
“We put a reply in on Monday of last week and as yet we haven’t received a reply.
“We will be challenging this,” he continued.
“It is such a high penalty in terms of league position.
“Unfortunately they have taken a heavy handed line.
“It’s not as if we haven’t submitted umpires for years.
“With the amount of youth functions we have and volunteers at the club, each year we host the Kirk Cup at our complex and don’t charge a penny for hosting those events, it’s just unfortunate.”
The decision, which was sanctioned by the umpires committee and the Management Board, could now go to court. The Chairman continued: “We will not be accepting this decision. Absolutely not.
“We are going to challenge this - legally, if necessary.”
The two points deduction now means that Lisnagarvey have now dropped seven points, rather than five and have little hope of catching leaders Banbridge, who have gone through the first half of the league programme without dropping a point.
This blow adds to Garvey’s woes, with the club entering a hectic fixture list.
Following recent weather postponements, all league fixtures must be completed before the IHL playoffs in March.
An Ulster Hockey spokesperson commented: “Three clubs were sanctioned for not complying with rule 6A in the Ulster Hockey Union constitution which states - All clubs with teams in the Premier and Senior 1 leagues MUST have at least one graded umpire per team to be available to take umpire appointments for the Ulster Umpire Men’s and / or Ladies panels every week during the season.”