On the face of it, the Euro Hockey League format changes which were announced yesterday will fashion a celebration of the sport next Easter – a men’s, women’s and junior European finale to savour.
Although there was no mention of it in Sunday’s releases, the global FIH Pro League has clearly impacted Europe’s premier competition enough to yield a major expansion – and for the better.
However, there will now only be two EHL weekends in which to showcase the sport., spread apart by a long wait from October to April.
Yet, the modifications mean that the four-day Finals over Easter Weekend will give the best possible chance to at least trump the FIH Pro League for exposure.
April is a packed month already, with matches spread across the globe. But the players will want to be part of the EHL fabric, given that the best eight men’s and women’s clubs will be joined at the hip for the first time.
As such, the Final8 could pose club v country debates.
For example, Gonzalo Peillat may be needed for Argentina’s clash with New Zealand in Rosario, three days before the start of the EHL Finals.
Two days after the Finals, the Pro League sparks back into action.
Germany (men and women) and Great Britain women both play mid week matches and it will be interesting to see how GB coaches view the state of play if, say, Surbiton reach the latter stages and the Olympic champions’ position in the Pro League table is a lowly one, with Tokyo qualification in mind.
For now, however, the introduction of EHL Women means that the domestic stakes are raised even higher. With so few places on offer, competition will be fierce to join the well-supported Euro party and club hockey will be richer for it.
And that can only be a boost, as the Pro League threatens to become a behemoth over the club scene during a time when domestic titles are being fought over.
How it works
The FINAL8 tournament will be played at Easter and will run in tandem with EHL Women and the U14 EHL Boys and Girls tournaments, making for a spectacular festival of hockey.
The FINAL8 will feature the champions from the top four nations on the EHL rankings table alongside the four sides that qualify from the KO16.
Further details about the men’s EuroHockey Trophy and the knock-on effects for the other European club competitions will be confirmed by the EHF by the end of October.
KO16 – October
• Three day event
• KO-format – Teams ranked 5-20
• Nations ranked 5-8 seeded 1-4
• No. 2 Teams from Nations 1-4 seeded 5-8
• Remaining teams drawn
• The 4 successful sides from KO16 proceed to KO8
FINAL8 – Easter
• Easter Weekend- 4 days
• Champions from top 4 national federations seeded 1-4
• Joined by 4 teams from KO16
• Classification matches for K8 losing teams