December 5, 2013

FIL Nations Vote Iroquois In, Germany Out of Blue Division

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

With a two-third majority vote, the 28 full member nations of the FIL voted to place the Iroquois Nationals in the top division of the 2014 World Championship, hosted by US Lacrosse in July in Denver. Germany will be placed in a lower division.
© Rich Barnes

The Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) membership has spoken. The Iroquois Nationals will play in a six-team Blue Division at July’s 2014 FIL World Championship, and Germany will not.

The 28 full member nations voted in excess of a two-third majority to restore the Iroquois place in the event’s top division as a one-time exception to its existing bylaw on championship structure, and relegate the Germans to a lower division despite its sixth-place finish in 2010.

Postal ballots were mailed Nov. 2 and votes were due to the FIL on Dec. 1.

FIL President Stan Cockerton notified all members and associate members of the results in a letter Thursday, and also said that the “the general principle will be the subject of further discussion at the General Assembly in July of next year.” Germany will be positioned in the 2014 tournament as if it finished seventh in 2010.

According to the existing FIL bylaw (11.1), the Iroquois Nationals' absence from the 2010 world championship in Manchester, England, due to a dispute over their Haudenosaunee-issued passports — and the resultant forfeiture of their games — would have placed them 30th and left them out of the top flight for the US Lacrosse-hosted 2014 world championship in Denver. Only the top six teams from the previous world championship gain entry into the Blue Division.

When the FIL released the 2014 brackets in April, Germany was in and the Iroquois were out of the Blue Division, which also will include America, Australia, Canada, England and Japan. The placement caused uproar in the international lacrosse community, considering the sport’s Native American origins.

The Iroquois appealed that decision twice and in June solicited enough support from the FIL General Assembly that the member nations rejected the original proposal by the FIL Board of Directors to uphold the bylaw as stated. The decision opened the door for the Iroquois to return to the Blue Division, and also for the FIL to alter its championship structure.

The FIL considered expanding the Blue Division or staging a play-in game, but neither option proved viable, Cockerton said in a letter to members with the postal ballot. Germany could still qualify for the medal round through the existing play-in playoff structure.

“Giving due regard to the needs of the World Championship host organization (US Lacrosse), with the championship being only eight months away, and not wishing to place other participants in a disadvantageous position, we have concluded that the most appropriate and the only viable way forward is to retain the current championship structure,” Cockerton said in the letter.

The FIL and US Lacrosse were willing to host a play-in game between the Iroquois and Germany before the formal start of the championship, but Germany indicated it would not participate. The FIL also considered expanding the Blue Division to seven or even eight teams, but that would require prolonging the tournament by two days — adding significant meal and accommodation costs for participating countries and venue costs for US Lacrosse — or force six teams to play twice in one day in high altitude in Denver.

While putting the Iroquois back in the Blue Division reflects the FIL’s membership majority opinion, German general manager Tim Gruenke said he would quit the sport of lacrosse if the postal ballot passed. In November, he called for more transparency from the FIL, asking for documentation of meeting minutes.

FIL men’s competition committee chair Ron Balls sent out a 10-page letter on Nov. 18, doing just that to provide “additional information to assist when considering votes,” he said. The letter contained detailed descriptions of multiple meetings and options considered that ultimately led to the one that presented to FIL membership.

The 28 full member nations are: Australia, Austria, Bermuda, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Haudenosaunee, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Scotland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United States and Wales.

— Matt DaSilva contributed to this story.


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