Unification of ice hockey in the UK has been on the agenda for the last 12 months and Ice Hockey UK, the EIHA and SIHA have been working on plans to unify, which will ensure the sport has the best opportunity to develop and be successful.

Officiating is leading the way and is the first section to unify as part of the wider unification process. The unification of the referee sections has created the new Ice Hockey UK Referee Section.

Joy Johnston has been named as Ice Hockey UK’s referee-in-chief as part of a restructure. Johnston will now be responsible for officials across the UK at all levels, with Michael Evans being appointed as deputy referee chief.

Evans will lead the officials performance coaching programme and work with Joy on future officiating development strategy for the programme.

Simon Kirkham will continue in his role of head of Elite League officials and lead on international exchanges, as IHUK continues to build good relationships with other federations and officials across the world to further enhance their officials’ exchange programme.

Underneath the leadership team, the new management structure has seen officiating managers appointed to oversee the respective officiating levels and look after the development of officials within those levels.

Each officiating manager will have a game assignor who supports them to ensure the officials in their level get the right games and their assignment of games reflects their performance and development plans.

The levels range from one to six with Level 1 covering the under-10 to under-13 age group, while Level 6 is for Elite League officials.

The officiating managers at each level are as follows:

Level 6/Elite: Simon Kirkham
Level 5: Bob Bramah
Level 4: Rene Ross
Level 3: Dave Cloutman
Level 2: Mick Litchfield and Mike Chidley
Level 1: Nathan Ormond

The appointed game assignors working to support the officiating managers at each level are as follows:

Level 5: David Graham and Dave Farren
Level 4: David Graham and Stephen Matthews
Level 3: David Graham and Matt Thompson
Level 2: David Graham, Blaine Evans and Richard Fraley
Level 1: David Graham, Roy Hamilton and Tom Stephenson

Johnston, who was referee in the gold-medal game between Canada and USA at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, said: “I am honoured to be asked to lead the new referee section for Ice Hockey UK.

“For many years we have operated with a fragmented officiating pathway and it is a huge step forward for us to now have a structure in place that allows for a continuous pathway for officials to enter officiating at Level 1 and to advance through to the Elite League and international license status.

“We have set ourselves the ambitious vision of having a world-class officiating development programme. It is exciting to be at the start of this journey and to have an opportunity to give back and make a difference to something which has been a huge part of my life for so very long.

“We want to develop officials who we can be proud of at all levels. We have a lot of work to do with programme development and we will be reviewing our strategic plan, operating plan and all policies and procedures.

“This may take some time but building a strong foundation for the programme is important. Over the coming months we look forward to sharing our programme developments with the membership.

“Simon has done a great job of navigating the referee programme to this point and has continuously had to juggle the management of the Elite League officiating programme with the overall Ice Hockey UK referee development programme.

“This new structure is a great way of dividing up the responsibilities, allowing Simon to focus on the Elite League officials management and for me to work in partnership with him on how that fits into the overall officials development programme.”

Kirkham said: “This is an exciting time to be part of the restructure of officials in UK ice hockey. The new structure will help develop our officials and this is important as they are a vital part of our sport.

“I will be expecting the same hard work and dedication from all those officials who currently work in the Elite League and inspire those up-and-coming officials that see this as their goal and help them along the pathway we are creating.

“The exchange programme with other countries is very important. Not only will it give a chance for our officials to officiate in different countries, but it will give us top officials from other countries.”

Johnston added: “I have to make a special mention of my mentor and friend Dave Cloutman. When the Ice Hockey UK board approached me to design a new structure for the unified referee section, I knew we would need committed officiating managers who are no longer active officials.

“Dave has been a mentor to me throughout my officiating career and is a popular referee across the programme with officials who look up to him, players who love to have him working their games and fans who love to love him or love to hate him.

“He has given so much to officiating and I know he wanted to continue officiating until he physically couldn’t anymore. However, I also knew that the success of the new structure was dependent on having the right management and leadership team in place to drive it forwards.

“After seeing the plans Dave decided with a heavy heart that the programme needed him off the ice to drive it forward for the next generation of officials. Dave will be retiring from on-ice duties to take on one of the officiating manager roles for a key group of young officials to develop them for the future.

“I feel humbled to have him in the team and know with him alongside the rest of the officiating managers that we have a strong team to ensure the future success of the officiating programme across the UK.

“I would also like to thank Allan Batchelder, Ian Hayden and Ken Riddell for all their hard work in developing the EIHA referee programme so far and for the time they have given to the officials over the many years they have been involved.

“Whilst they have all stepped away from active management roles for the officiating programme, I am pleased to say that they will stay on as advisers to the new referee section to ensure a smooth transition period and to offer their invaluable experience and support to myself and Michael as we build the new programme.

“There will be further information released on the new website for the Ice Hockey UK Referee Section and the contact email addresses for the newly-appointed referee section management team in the coming weeks.

“For now, we look forward to supporting our new unified referee section with developing a programme for officials that we can all be proud of.”