Hockey back from the brink

It now appears certain that the Irish Men’s Hockey Team will participate in next month’s Champions’ Challenge tournament in Argentina, after a successful fundraising drive among clubs and supporters.

Tonight is the deadline for confirmation of intention to play and the fundraising target of €45,000 is in sight with a total of €37,530 confirmed through the donation page set up after last week’s confusion first over the team’s withdrawal, then its reinstatement if the money could be raised.

Sponsorship packages are available for the tournament and include the remainder of the present season with packages ranging from €1,000 up to €10,000 for shirt front sponsorship.  If any members of the Sport for Business Community would like to express an interest in supporting the Hockey Association they can do so through contacting us via email before 3pm this afternoon.

The decision to withdraw the team was based primarily on a financial hole left by expenditure on the senior team’s ultimately unsuccessful campaigns to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games.  Electric Ireland supported the final qualifying tournament held at UCD in March but its overall support is mainly directed towards the women’s team and the men are without a principal sponsor.

The addition of two international tournaments as part of a World league that makes it more likely for qualification for Rio is good from a sporting perspective but gave rise to the challenge that the IHA felt last week could not be met.  A breakdown in communication with the men’s team led to heated exchanges between those who run and play the sport but the resulting drive to raise additional money does now appear to be almost there.

The largest single donation on the My Charity page set up for the purpose was €1,000, a figure donated by some of the family members of those playing on the team.  Clubs and anonymous donors numbering more than 200 are listed as having made a contribution.

The background to the Board decision and the tensions in the elite level of the sport will be the first major job of work for incoming Chief Executive Mike Heskin when he joins the Association to replace Angus Kirkland in November following his departure to take up the reins of the European Federation.

Perhaps some central funding from Europe to assist in the preparation of teams for international competition, such as is made available in other sports will also be near the top of his agenda.

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