Hockey: Corby takes up cudgels for the clubs

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The Independent Online
MIKE CORBY, the former England and Great Britain international, has answered the calls from hockey's "grassroots" to become involved in the game's administration and has agreed to stand for election as vice- president of the English Hockey Association.

Corby, whose 17-year international career included the 1964 and 1972 Olympics and who was also England's leading amateur squash player, announced in London yesterday that he will oppose the present incumbent, Peter Webb, having been nominated by the Middlesex County Association.

He told a press conference yesterday that, having kept in touch with his two clubs, Southgate and Hounslow, he knew it was the EHA's apparent indifference to the needs of clubs at all levels that had to be addressed. He said: "The head of hockey, in terms of elite performers, and the feet, in the development and coaching of players at clubs and in schools, appear to be reasonably provided for but it was the body between which was being neglected. Unnecessary risks are being taken."

Corby thinks proposals for the reform of club hockey were too radical and cut across the whole roots of the game in England. That message, heard from clubs up and down the country, comes through strongly in tomorrow evening's Radio Five Live On the Line investigation.

Clubs are being lost together with the social side of hockey, which is so very important to the great mass of hockey players. The artificial pitches revolution of 20 years ago had devastating consequences on the social fabric of the game as many clubs' first teams travel several miles to sports centres to play "home" games. Clubs have still not recovered from that change and now face a second revolution. The desire for water- based artificial pitches could set hockey back another 20 years. While accepting that elite players would like to train and play on water-based pitches, Corby questions the wisdom of aiming to move hockey down that route at the expense of the clubs.

Corby thinks that with the highly paid chief executive and large professional staff that hockey now has to take the burden of the administration, the vice-president and president roles should be non-executive, a role he could contemplate.

A former Lloyd's Insurance Broker, he is the owner and chairman of Mike Corby Holdings, which has 10 leisure centres in London, and holds numerous other directorships. In addition, he is no stranger to sporting politics. As a vice-president of the Squash Racquets Association in the Nineties, he backed Jonah Barrington for president, a move which culminated in the departure of Sir Michael Edwards as president.

"I feel that with my vast sporting and business connections I should be able to make a useful contribution," he said. The man who, as the director of Olympic affairs for the World Squash Federation, has the task of having squash accepted as an Olympic sport, clearly feels he has something to offer hockey and is prepared to devote the time to doing it.