On April 26, the Federation of International Lacrosse released the Blue Division schedule for the 2014 FIL World Championship. The headline was the tournament opening U.S.-Canada game, and the release didn’t include the word “Iroquois.”
It was the first public acknowledgement of the complicated position the FIL and the Iroquois find themselves in subsequent to the Iroquois’ absence at the 2010 World Championships in Manchester, England. That absence directly led to the Iroquois’ omission from the 2014 Blue Division.
The Iroquois are appealing to the FIL membership for inclusion in the Blue Division; it’s their second appeal and it’s an unprecedented action. The necessary materials from the FIL and the Iroquois, as well as a request for a vote, could go out to FIL members as early as Friday.
So, how did the situation get to this point? A recap.
July 2010 — The Iroquois National Team is denied admission to the United Kingdom on their Haudenosaunee passports and, as a result, do not participate in the FIL World Championship. In their absence, the German National Team finishes sixth in the tournament. According to FIL bylaws, the Germans qualified for the 2014 Blue Division as a result of their performance and the Iroquois would be placed in a lower group.
January 12, 2013 — A representative of the Iroquois National Team and their lawyer meet with the FIL Board of Directors to appeal the decision; this is their first appeal.
February 2013 — FIL President Stan Cockerton notified the Iroquois the Board had decided to reaffirm its original decision.
April 19, 2013 — Cockerton received the Haudonausonee’s second appeal. This time, they’ll appeal to the FIL General Assembly, seeking admission for the Iroquois Nationals to the Blue Division in advance of the 2014 Men’s World Championships in Denver.
April 24, May 1, May 8 — The FIL Board of Directors conducted a weekly conference call to figure out how best to distribute the necessary information so that the membership is well enough informed to vote. “This is unprecedented,” Cockerton says. “That’s part of our issue; this is all new ground. We’re trying to proceed in a timely basis, but more importantly in a proper way.”
The initial emotional reaction to the decision was clear — several comments on the initial post, Casey Vock’s comments in the April 30 Winners and Losers post and a handful of Twitter users — notably Denver assistant and former U.S. National Team goalie Trevor Tierney — pointed out how the decision seemed unfair to the Iroquois and would adversely affect the quality and excitement of the tournament if the U.S. and Canada didn’t play the Iroquois in the opening round because those games would likely be among the week’s most competitive.
Cockerton says, however, that the FIL Board is empowered only to make decisions in line with the rules the membership has agreed upon, and that they can’t change their decision simply to make the tournament better.
“We took lots of time trying to go through every possible scenario,” Cockerton said, indicating an Iroquois-Germany pre-tournament play-in game and Blue Division expansion were both discussed. “We think we’ve made our decisions based on what our bylaws are. From our point of view, that’s the only decision we’ve made. We make decisions based on bylaws given to us, and we can’t pick and choose to what we want to adhere.”
And FIL Men’s Competition Committee Chair Ron Balls reinforced that this wasn’t a decision made in malice toward the Iroquois due to the outcome around the 2010 tournament.
“It is most certainly not punishment but a matter of following the correct procedure,” he wrote in an email. “Rankings are based on positions at the previous event, Iroquois Nationals did not participate in the previous event.”
The Iroquois appeal, however, disputed that the decision was made in accordance with a proper interpretation of the bylaws and precedent, citing the Swedish Team’s absence in 2006, and thus appealed to the GA.
Secondary in the ongoing dispute, however, is the future of the German team, whose Blue Division spot may be lost if the GA appeal is successful.
“DLaxV, the German National Governing Body, have not raised any specific issues over this matter and will receive the same communication as all other members within the next few days,” Balls wrote.
A member of the Iroquois Lacrosse Association could not be reached for comment. Stay tuned to InsideLacrosse.com for more information regarding this story.