Unification: “We have to give our members a say on it now”

Scottish Ice Hockey chairman David Hand believes that a ‘huge opportunity’ has been missed after the English Ice Hockey Association didn’t reach the majority needed to unify the three governing bodies in the United Kingdom.

Saturday’s ballot saw 61% of the EIHA members vote in favour of joining the other two associations, short of the 75% needed under a special resolution.

The decision has left Hand reeling, with the SIH chief admitting it was expected to go through – a year after it was rejected the first time.

It means that SIH will now separate themselves from Ice Hockey UK and go it alone, but Hand insists another vote like this needs everyone to have their say if or when the opportunity comes again in the future.

“I’m disappointed by the outcome of the vote,” Hand told Herald and Times Sport. “We joined with Ice Hockey UK eight years ago and were waiting for the EIHA to decide to join us as one governing body and I’m sad their members have decided to not come on board.

“It was agreed that if EIHA didn’t vote for unification, then SIH would come out of Ice Hockey UK and resume as a separate entity. If there is another unification vote in the future, whenever that may be, then Scotland will have its say too.

“We had our say eight years ago and we agreed to join up with Ice Hockey UK. But I hope it does come round again and we can all look at it and decide.

“It was a bit of a shock that the unification didn’t go through. I didn’t have a Plan B to be honest as I expected Plan A to go ahead. There will be a lot of talks in the next few days between us and our members as we look at our own position.

“It’s a huge missed opportunity for everyone involved. I thought this was the time for it to happen and I know the EIHA went for it last year, but wanted to go away and do some things to get it on track which they did. But I can’t see another vote like this for at least three to five years, if it gets that far.

“We’re definitely not shutting the door on it. As and when Ice Hockey UK want to reach out to the associations and go for it again, we’re certainly keen to be part of it, but we have to give our members a say on it now.”

The vote ended the week on a bittersweet note when it was announced that ice hockey would receive £200,000 and rinks will get £2 million in grants from the Scottish government and sportscotland to help them through the COVID-19 crisis.

The news was welcomed by Hand, who hopes it will go a long way in seeing the sport return to action in Scotland as well as see doors opening again at venues such as Murrayfield, which has closed indefinitely.

“I spoke with sportscotland on Friday and asked them how the funding will work because I believe £2 million was allocated to the rinks,” he added.

“It’s important we get ice hockey back playing in Scotland because we can’t afford to lose any more rinks.

“The more money that can be put out, the better it will be for the survival of the sport and the £2 million among the 21-22 venues is a good portion of money per rink, but I’ve no idea how that will be shared out.

“As for the £200,000 allocated for ice hockey, that will be distributed amongst who applied and that will become clearer in due course.”