Club wins appeal over ban and accuses England Hockey of ‘institutional bias’

England Hockey has been accused of a “shocking abuse of power” and “institutional and structural bias” by a club that has won its appeal against a 12-month suspended ban for breaching a code of conduct.

The sport’s governing body was also found to have broken its own rules when investigating Barford Tigers, whose men’s team play in the third tier of the national league.

The case came about after complaints from Yardley Hockey Club and City of Birmingham Hockey Club in 2019 relating to abusive language and sexism offences. It led to Barford receiving a suspended sentence in 2020 despite “robustly denying” the charges.

However last month an appeals panel quashed the charges against the club and found that England Hockey had relied upon an “invalid application of the disrepute offence regulations”, while the procedure was “fundamentally flawed”.

Barford Tigers chairman, Gurmej Pawar, has now written to the England Hockey chief executive, Nick Pink, to demand an apology and changes to the appeal system.

In a letter sent on Tuesday, he wrote: “The findings that England Hockey broke and disregarded their own rules is a disturbing conclusion and, whilst a shocking abuse of power, is something that we suspected throughout the course of dealing with England Hockey.

“In effect, we felt that we were not only fighting the case but also a system riddled with institutional and structural bias.

“This was a case of the national governing body bending the rules to serve their own narrative, that an ethnically diverse club must be in the wrong.”

Last year the Guardian revealed that eight clubs, including Barford Tigers, had written to England Hockey to warn that the sport had an endemic race issue.

Pawar added: “No institution should be allowed to be a law unto itself, and there is no room for the outdated discriminatory attitudes that Barford Tigers Hockey Club and others have endured from England Hockey in hockey, sport or in society. Enough is enough.”

Sanctions that specifically related to the conduct of Barford’s vice-president, Sukhdev Gill, in his capacity as an umpire were not appealed against.

In a statement, England Hockey accepted that mistakes had been made. “It has become clear that there were shortcomings in the initial process, and we at England Hockey are saddened and disappointed by this and recognise that the process needs to be reviewed and changed,” Pink said.

“In terms of volume of evidence, complexity and duration, this case is unprecedented and has exerted our process in a manner it simply has not experienced previously. We have taken on the learnings from this, and as such, we will share our new processes at the next England Hockey AGM in March.”

Pink dded that “relevant documents” in relation to the case will be published to improve transparency and the outcome of future disciplinary proceedings will be shared.