Umpire appointments and FixturesLive – integration is coming!

Across the UK, the vast majority of leagues and umpire associations (HUAs) are supported by just two systems: FixturesLive, and Tex Solutions.

FixturesLive covers most leagues; Tex covers nearly all HUAs, plus a small number of leagues.

The pair of us sat down last year and agreed to work together. We both want to see a better digital world for our sport (and happen to be regular umpires too; Tex being a national league umpire and umpire manager at EHF events; I’m avoiding L2 to stay as a club umpire!).

Our two systems have in fact been integrated, but only for the English national leagues, for some years. Umpire appointments made by the National Programme Umpires Association (NPUA) use FixturesLive as the ‘master’ dataset for fixtures, which is of course managed day to day by England Hockey (EH). This has prevented much confusion over the years, and credit is due to EH, who pushed us to sort it out.

It’s fair to say that the idea of further integration, for other nations, regional and county leagues, just got lost in the general mishmash of work, and we might well have joined up the dots more quickly.

But it’s also true to say that integrating umpire appointments and fixtures is a complete nightmare – sorry – an interesting challenge.

One of the joys of working with the UK hockey scene is the extraordinary overlapping patchwork of regions, counties, leagues, clubs and HUAs, all controlled by different people. But who is responsible for appointing whom to what? What happens when fixtures are changed or deleted? Having two systems (or more) isn’t helping the hockey community. And if the HUAs have the best information on umpire appointments, how does that relate to the work being done by governing bodies to improve umpire records (who is an “active” umpire), and so on.

Is there a case for a singing and dancing national or GB umpires’ appointments system? Well, perhaps, but that also presumes a singing and dancing system for everything else – so, in short: it’s complicated.

So, Tex and us want to get over a simple message: we will integrate the data where we can, and no league or HUA should make decisions on the basis that this integration isn’t possible

OK – what can we do now?

Well, bear in mind that the integration is typically 2-way:

– Tex’s system (master for appointments) reading from FixturesLive (master for fixtures), to handle fixture data
– FixturesLive’s system reading from Tex’s, to handle appointments

If you’ve got that, here’s the plan so far:

– We are working on (with EH’s support) the display of NPUA appointments in the EH web site before the end of this season.
– FixturesLive will work on how this data can be stored and displayed in the main FixturesLive system (which is complicated because we have a pre-existing system, used by some basketball leagues)
– Tex and FixturesLive are talking to various partners about how we implement his approach for the future

There are quite complex changes required to both systems to make this work, and it may require, for many HUAs, the replacement of their systems – Tex can explain this better than I can.

I’m aware that there are some leagues that don’t use FixturesLive, with its many benefits, because they want to keep their umpire appointments systems intact.

So I hope you can see what we’re hoping to get done. It will take time – probably a few seasons.

The appointment of club umpires is currently possible via the FixturesLive system, but it seems clubs aren’t that interested (sigh).

But, in summary: integration is coming!