Hockey: Wotton calls for priority clear-up

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The Independent Online
FOOTBALL is not the only sport to have club-representative dilemmas, writes Bill Colwill. Hockey clubs are encouraged to free players for duty only to find that they are denied them for crucial games, or that some clubs are allowed postponements while others have to play below full strength.

The issue has been raised again this week. Beeston, at home to relegation-threatened Warrington this weekend, are expected to play without four of their promising players - required for schoolboy representative commitments - who featured in last week's 1-0 win against Brean.

Graham Griffiths, the Beeston manager, said: 'I deplore the situation but it does give me the chance to experiment and try other players.'

However, Griffiths stressed that if his weakened side lost it would be 'grossly unfair' on Warrington's fellow strugglers, Brean and Cheltenham.

'I accept that country must come before club but not at all costs,' Simon Wotton, Brean's manager, said. 'You plan and fight for the whole season to retain National League status and your chances are sent up in smoke by unscheduled events over which you have no control.

'Hockey has got to sort out its priorities. It makes a total mockery of the National League. Administrators must get together to sort it out.'

Hockey does not have a rule which requires a club to play their strongest team, but it does have an obligation to competition and club sponsors, and supporters to arrange fixtures so that teams can field their best players.