Ian Francis has resigned as chief executive of Hockey New Zealand, after four turbulent years in charge.

The organisation confirmed Francis' departure in a statement today, saying he would step down in October.

Francis had signalled to the Hockey NZ board his intention to move on earlier in the year but was asked to stay and manage the sport through the initial challenges of Covid-19, the statement said.

His decision follows a spate of high-profile departures from the Black Sticks women's programme in recent weeks - including Gemma McCaw, Brooke Neal and assistant coach Katie Glynn - and reports of a fractured squad struggling to deal with the fallout associated with the departure of former coach Mark Hager.

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While Hockey NZ have denied the player departures were linked to any issues highlighted in these reports, High Performance Sport New Zealand confirmed to the Herald in May there were "ongoing issues within the high-performance set-up".

The Weekend Herald first reported that issues within the camp stemmed from the findings of the Dew report, commissioned shortly before Hager's departure in January last year, which pointed to a "negative" environment.

Gemma McCaw retired from the Black Sticks for the second time last month. Photo / Photosport
Gemma McCaw retired from the Black Sticks for the second time last month. Photo / Photosport

The review was launched months earlier after Hager, a former Australian international, accidentally sent an email to the entire team, naming and shaming individual players for their performance and effort, after finishing 11th at the women's World Cup.

Three months earlier, they had won gold at the Commonwealth Games.

In May, sources told the Herald the situation within the team was "faulty" and that some members of the squad and management team were actively working against changes that current coach Graham Shaw has been trying to implement. Well-placed sources also warned that well-known players were considering retirement because of concerns with the environment, even with the Olympics on the horizon.

On Wednesday, Hockey NZ chair Mike Bignell said with community hockey now back up and running, and with the international game in a Covid-enforced break, it was the right time to transition to a new leader.

"Hockey has an incredibly busy two years ahead. At community level we are working with associations to introduce more competition opportunities. We are also increasing the depth of our high performance playing pool through the development of 100 athletes outside our national squads," Bignell said.

"And internationally our Black Sticks teams, which are both ranked amongst the world's top nations, will compete in the annual FIH Hockey Pro League as well as the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 followed by the World Cup and Commonwealth Games in 2022."

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Ian Francis, Hockey NZ CEO, has resigned after four years in the role. Photo / Photosport
Ian Francis, Hockey NZ CEO, has resigned after four years in the role. Photo / Photosport

Francis took over as the permanent CEO from Malcolm Harris in July 2016, following six months in the acting role.

He joined Hockey NZ in 2011 and was credited with playing an integral part in driving the sport's growth as General Manager Community Sport and Events.

"I am very grateful for the commitment and willingness of our hockey community to work together in the sport's best interests, and this has allowed us to drive some real progress," Francis said.

"I'm also pleased to leave knowing that New Zealand now has a strong voice at the global hockey table.

"There's no doubt it's been a challenging year for the sport with Covid-19 halting all hockey for months, the Tokyo Olympics being postponed, and the ongoing work in response to the independent review of the Black Sticks Women.

"But there's real excitement about the new Premier Hockey League launching next month followed by probably the busiest period in the sport's history in 2021 and 2022."

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