Hockey: HA looks for better discipline

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The Independent Online
AS THE leagues go into their mid-season break, the talking point has moved from the playing arena and the experimental penalty-corner rule to concern about the future of the game, the lack of sponsorship and, above all, discipline, writes Bill Colwill.

The concern has been highlighted by two international umpires withdrawing their services from the PizzaExpress National League, and news that others are considering taking this drastic step. Generally, the umpires are concerned about the dissent and verbal abuse which comes not only from the players but also from coaches, management and substitutes.

The Hockey Association has moved quickly to put things right and into perspective. A three- pronged attack is being mounted. First, a letter is going from the chairman of the HA's management committee and the HA's president to all clubs pointing out their responsibilities and that if they are unable to put their own clubs in order, severe penalties will be introduced.

Secondly, match delegates, appointed to all senior fixtures, have been given improved powers. Finally, umpires are being reminded that they themselves have a range of penalties at their command.

Keith Rowe, the manager of England's leading club, Hounslow, acknowledges the problems and is pleased that the HA has moved. He said yesterday: 'The image of the game is still of great importance and it is the responsibility of clubs to make every effort to ensure that unacceptable behaviour is eliminated.'