So, after writing about how British ice hockey needs a “Brave New World”, I got to thinking about how I would like it to look. What format do I think would serve the sport best, from the grass roots all the way to the “Elite”? Well, this is what I have come up with (and keep in mind this is very much a work in progress, and likely will be updated):
(Update 1: Amended section on player movement to be clearer)
(Update 2: Added section on board for Rink Operators)
Independent Chair: The independence of this role is paramount. Whoever is the head of the organisation needs to be as free of ties to any particular club/league as possible. I would advocate this being a paid role, and someone with experience of National level sports administration being brought in to take the post.
Secretary: Another role that I would advocate as being occupied by someone with no affiliations to any particular entity within the structure. Should be a paid post, too.
Elite League Representative: This should be a person (and alternate should they be unavailable) who has been voted on by the EIHL member clubs as their designated representative on the NGB.
English Leagues Representative: As above, this should be an elected position representing the interests of the English Mens Senior Leagues.
Scottish Leagues Representative: As above, but for the Scottish league.
Womens League Representative: See above.
Universities Representative: See above
Para Representative: See above.
English Juniors Representative: See above.
Scottish Juniors Representative: See above.
Recreational Teams Representative: See above.
Player Representative: A selected player or former player to head up a players Union and represent the interests of players when they may be in disagreement with their clubs/leagues
Disciplinary Representative: As above.
Team GB Representative: As above.
Ice Facility Operators Representative: There are 2 ways to acheve this role: 1 is to form a sub committee and invite a representative from all the relevant operators to attend, and vote on a board level representative. The other is to see if rink operators would want to form a representative trade organisation (called, say the Ice Rink Operators Association), and have its chair sit on the NGB board.
This gives a 15 person board. Only the Chair and Secretary should be paid for their work, be it on a full or part time basis. This board would Meet regularly to handle all aspects of the sports governance, from finances to league sanctioning, work permits, etc. They would also set a budget for Team GB, and build a developmental pathway from the youngest juniors age group right through to the EIHL and beyond.
Elite League: Fully professional, full contact Senior league. Ideally, this would work to be in a position of having an even split between “import” players (N.A./E.U./Non E.U.) and genuine British born & trained players. Obviously, this would be a multi year target, requiring close co-ordination between the Elite and the leagues below to develop players.
National League: A more complicated proposition. I fully believe that to develop players to the standard required by the Elite, a NAtional semi professional league would be required. This would operate on a similar set of standards to the former Premier LEague, with severe restrictions on “import” players. I would reccomend 4/5 per team, plus a minimum of 3 U23 GB Eligible and 2 U20 GB Eligible players per bench (max bench size 22). Players could move up and down between the Elite and the National leagues, subject to negotiated and ratified agreements being in place, and financial arrangements being adhered to (to prevent teams from either poaching away all the best players at short notice, or teams blocking moves for their own benefit).
National League 2: Similar to the current NIHL, with just 1 or 2 “import” players per team. Again, players can move between N1 and N2 subject to agreements etc.
U20s League: A national U20s league is a must, in my opinion. Too many promising juniors are lost due to a lack of squad places in NIHL sides currently. A U20s league, even one that operated on a reduced schedule, would help stem this loss, and help showcase some of our better U20 talent. Players could be signed to developmental deals from this league by N1 and Elite teams. Once a player has signed such a deal, they would be ineligible to play in the u20s again for the remainder of that season.
Womens League: I would advocate that the womens league be left “as is” currently.
Universities League: Again, I would advocate leaving this “as is”. An alternative would be to work with Universities that have teams and link the Universities and U20s leagues into a single competition.
Para Hockey: I would leave the structure here as is.
Rec Hockey: Again, I would leave this “as is”.
Commercial Manager: I would hire a commercial manager to work with the NGB and the leagues to better promote the sport, and to maximise revenue streams. Whilst some clubs currently do quite well in terms of marketing, others do not. A centralised strategy to market the sport on a national level, in conjunction with teams own local level ork is urgently required. Finding league wide deals, such as 1 kit supplier (you are likely to get a better price on equipment if you order bulk. The BBL does this for playing kits and balls, for example) could help ease the burden on some clubs.