“[The] initial decision by [Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Hockey Team hockey coach Glen ‘Fido’ Francis] to exclude Mr [Andrey] Rocke [from his training team for the 2019 Pan American Games] seemed to be on the premise that he knew about the requisite beep tests and just did not attend.
“There was no concrete evidence presented by the TTHB which clearly showed Mr Rocke knew of all the information related to the beep tests and the conditions for participation in training.”
The following is a decision by the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) arbitration committee, headed by Sonja Johnson, with relation to Men’s National Hockey Team head coach Glen ‘Fido’ Francis and the Trinidad and Tobago Hockey Board’s refusal to allow veteran Malvern Sports Club goalkeeper Andrey Rocke to train with the team, after he missed several beep tests:
The TTOC arbitration meeting was attended by:
Andrey Rocke (Malvern goalkeeper), Sherlan Cabralis (Malvern president), Elton A Prescott (Malvern member), Cindy Martin-Faustin (Men’s National Hockey Team administrator), Danielle Thompson (TTHB representative), Garth Baptiste (TTHB representative), Sonja Johnson (Arbitration chair and Trinidad and Tobago Chess Association president) and Joseph Howard (arbitration member and member of the Contract Bridge Association of Trinidad and Tobago).
(Summary of issues raised by the appellant)
Mr Rocke advised that he was placed in a position last year (2018) whereby he was unable to effectively communicate with the TTHB. He was late to respond to the call for training because of significant personal and emotional issues but after sorting out his issues was met with a somewhat dismissive response to his request to start training.
He made more than one attempt to reach out to the TTHB for a meeting to explain his challenges but due to various reasons got a confirmed meeting date four months after his initial request.
A series of meetings between Mr Rocke’s club (Malvern) and the TTHB were held, but the TTHB rejected Mr Rocke’s request to join the training team.
Mr Rocke feels that it is unfortunate given his history with the sport of hockey and in particular with the National Team that this harsh line is being taken by the TTHB.
Mr Prescott expressed his view that the reasons offered by the TTHB for refusing to allow Mr Rocke to join the training team were not good reasons. If it was an issue of fitness, Mr Rocke could easily pass any beep test given at any time and if it was an issue of being late, that was not sufficient reason given Mr Rocke’s history and past contributions to the sport.
Expected Outcome: To be allowed to join the team training for possible selection to the 2019 Pan Am Games.
(Response from the TTHB)
Mr Garth Baptiste expressed the view that he was quite moved by Mr Rocke’s eloquent submission and that they go back a long way. He explained the process for selection to the training team which involved the following:
- A list was sent out to all the clubs on 23rd August 2018 inviting specific athletes to try out to be a part of the training team for the National Team.
- The clubs were then expected to inform their members who were selected.
- The selected athletes were then invited to a meeting on 30th August 2018 with the National Sports Administrator. In this meeting the selection process, criteria etc. were outlined. The athletes were also informed at this meeting that beep tests would be conducted on 8th and 15th September 2018 and in order to move on in the process, a score of 11 for goal keepers and 12 for outfield players was required.
- On 6th September 2018, an email was sent out advising that an additional beep test was scheduled for 22nd September 2018 for those players who did not attend the previously scheduled two tests or who did not attain the required scores.
- All through that time, no communication was received from Mr Rocke or his club indicating why he had failed to attend.
- According to Mr Baptiste, various members of the Hockey Board had several conversations with Mr Rocke but he proffered no indication of issues or explanations for absence from training.
Mr Baptiste felt that the Hockey Board had exhausted all due process in terms of communication with Mr Rocke.
Ms Cindy Martin-Faustin explained that one of the reasons the TTHB made it a point to stick to the process is because they had issues in the past with selections in the absence of a defined policy and decided that this deficiency would be addressed. Additionally, Mr Rocke had previously challenged a TTHB selection decision. As a result of the untimely death of a player, the situation was addressed indirectly but the matter was not yet resolved.
She emphasised that even foreign based players were required to follow the policy and they submitted videos of their beep tests. Those players who did not pass were not allowed to move forward with the team.
(Response by Mr Rocke/Malvern)
Mr Rocke stated that he had no contact with the hockey fraternity while battling his personal issues. He stressed that he was out of the loop and was not aware either of the start of training or the requirements for continuing with the team.
Ms Sherlan Cabralis responded from a club perspective. She indicated that no selection policy was ever communicated to the club by the TTHB. She explained that the club received a blast email from the TTHB about training and as the manager, sent it out to the players via a what’s app group message.
Ms Cabralis advised that it was subsequently realised that Mr Rocke was not on the WhatsApp group and therefore did not receive the notice of the start of training. She acknowledged that the club took responsibility for that lapse.
The Chair commended the TTHB on having a defined policy and felt the TTHB adopted a professional approach.[Johnson], however, expressed concern about the beep test seemingly being the main issue for Mr Rocke not being allowed to join the training team and that there seems to be a lot of speculation and assumptions as to whether Mr Rocke was aware of the scheduled training and tests.
She indicated that she understood the motivation behind the TTHB wanting to strictly adhere to its policy, which is important, but the TTHB needs to consider what is the overarching objective.
The TTHB challenged Mr Rocke’s contention that he was not aware of the training and beep tests. The Chair directly asked Mr Rocke whether he knew about the scheduled beep tests.
Mr Rocke said he would share what he knew. Mr Rocke confirmed he knew about the first beep test on September 8 and told his manager he was unable to participate but did not know about the other two sessions. He said that he even asked some of this teammates why they did not alert him and they thought that he already participated but at a different time.
Mr Danielle Thompson expressed concern that Mr Rocke is not the only person who can be affected by letting him on the training team. She questioned what is the TTHB to tell the players who met the process. How is the TTHB to justify letting Mr Rocke on.
Mr Joseph Howard stressed to everyone to importance of proper communication. It is imperative to determine if the message sent was received by all concerned parties.
The Chair stressed that this matter was about having the opportunity to be part of the training squad and not national team selection. She further suggested that in the future the TTHB may wish to re-consider their communication policy and send emails to the clubs and the players individually.
The Chair also expressed the opinion that given that Mr Rocke is one of the top players for the country, he should possibly be given some additional consideration.
The Chair then indicated that it does not seem that this session will end with a mediated position, after the TTHB confirmed their position remains the same. The Chair further said, therefore, a judgement will have to be made by the Arbitral Committee after deliberation which should be communicated in about 10 days.
Mr Andrey Rocke be allowed to participate in the TTHB team training for the upcoming Pan American Games 2019. This decision has no bearing as to whether he be selected for the team.
Basis for Decision:[The] initial decision to exclude Mr Rocke seemed to be on the premise that he knew about the requisite beep tests and just did not attend. There was no concrete evidence presented by the TTHB which clearly showed Mr Rocke knew of all the information related to the beep tests and the conditions for participation in training.
Mr Rocke seemed forthcoming and sincere in his responses during the hearing. He took full responsibility for missing the deadlines in his message on September 23 to the TTHB and wrote within one day of the last test once he was made aware and indicated that he was dealing with major personal issues.
The strict adherence to policy is not what prevailed in the past and so Mr Rocke would not have understood how missing the final beep test would eventually bar him from being part of the training squad. He also was not in receipt of all the correspondence that was shared with his club Malvern; to which Malvern also took some responsibility for this as well as follow up with Mr Rocke.
Members of the TTHB admitted during the meeting that had they known Mr Rocke really did not know about the beep tests then their decision would have been different. This response was quite instructive.
However, the TTHB still held firm that he knew though he stated categorically what he knew and what he did not know. Also, there seems to be no real reason why Mr Rocke will not want to do a beep test given his known level of fitness.
It seems that the subsequent decisions by the TTHB were all based on the same premise and hence resulted in the same outcome.
The Tribunal felt that this matter could have been handled differently by the TTHB and it should have been resolved in a manner that preserved all once the communication was received from Mr Rocke the day after the final beep test, i.e. on 23 September 2019.
At that point there was really no risk of adding another beep test, which could have been opened not just for Mr Rocke, but to anyone if there were also challenges surrounding any affected players’ initial participation.
It is highly likely that this matter could also have been resolved through a phone conversation with Mr Rocke when it was realised he was not present at any beep tests though he was invited to participate. However, instead, the first meeting was held approximately 4 months after the initial communication which then introduced other considerations.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read why former Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Men’s National Hockey Team coach David Francois believes his predecessor Glen ‘Fido’ Francis is victimising national goalkeeper Andrey Rocke.