OXFORD City Stars say they are ‘extremely disappointed’ after they were sanctioned for the postponement of last month’s match against Invicta Dynamos.

The Oxpens outfit called off the NIHL Division 1 South fixture on the day of the game, December 18, after Covid and injuries left them without a netminder.

As a result, Invicta were awarded a 5-0 win and Stars deducted three points by the league, fined £150 and could be charged for costs incurred by the visitors.

Read also: Oxford City Stars head coach Dean Birrell on Invicta postponement

It was one of six matches that were postponed due to Covid that weekend, with the National Ice Hockey League also giving sanctions to Division 1 South sides Romford and Chelmsford Chieftains.

In response, the Stars board has released a lengthy explanation of their reasons for the postponement and their reaction to the decision.

Here is the statement in full:

"We are extremely disappointed by the penalties imposed by the NIHL.

"With Covid-19 in our camp and a strong sense of general unease within the squad we were left with no choice but to postpone the match. We have robust Covid-19 protocols in place at the club and believe we took the right course of action on the day.

“On the morning of the fixture one of our netminders tested positive for Covid-19 and our other netminder was awaiting the results of a PCR test and was displaying Covid-19 symptoms. Our Under 18 netminder has a broken hand and despite contacting other clubs to seek an emergency loan of a netminder we were unable to secure one.

“With time against us we took the decision to contact Invicta before the club and its supporters were due to travel and seek an agreement to postpone the fixture. They were understanding of the situation and appreciated we contacted them before they were due to travel. We intended to reschedule the fixture; however, the league have awarded the points to Invicta.

“We fully understand the importance of fulfilling fixtures and the league’s desire to maintain the sport, but without a netminder and a lack of time to source one ahead of Invicta travelling meant we were left with no choice but to take the action we did. The pandemic is unpredictable and understandably challenging for all clubs to manage.

“We are disappointed we were not given the opportunity to rearrange the fixture and by the additional penalties of a three-point deduction and £150 fine.

"It is clear more fixtures will be impacted due to the pandemic across the sport and clubs will not be able to cope with further such penalties. The Stars alongside several other clubs wrote to the league to express our disappointment and to request clarity on Covid-19 protocols.

"On January 5 we all received Covid-19 guidance from the EIHA for the first time on what to do if a club is unable to fulfil a fixture due to the pandemic.

"Our fundamental priority throughout the pandemic remains the health and wellbeing of everyone associated with our club and we will continue to make decisions that we believe are in the best interests of our club.”

The NIHL, which confirmed one club is appealing the sanctions, has updated its Covid guidance following the postponements and released its own statement.

It said: “We work closely with Sport England, DCMS and Public Health England regarding up-to-date guidance that affects our sport and the ability of teams to play games.

“Each request is looked at individually with the specific circumstances provided by the respective clubs and using the latest guidance it is our belief that the games could have gone ahead as planned.

“The situation is evolving and guidance is changing on a regular basis which we will follow and apply to each case as it arises.

“While protocols are in place for games to go ahead as far as possible, the over-riding principle is to provide a safe and competitive environment for everyone involved and where it is correct that games are postponed then this will be sanctioned by the NLMG (National League Management Group).”