Exclusive | By Rod Gilmour
England Hockey is set to steer clear of a void season and ratify league proposals which would include moving to 11 teams in next season’s men’s and women’s Premier Divisions, The Hockey Paper understands.
Competitions panel recommendations put to an England Hockey board meeting today propose the 2019/20 season as closed, Surbiton men and women confirmed as champions and the ninth-placed teams in the two top flights – University of Birmingham women and University of Exeter men – to remain as Premier Division sides.
With no domestic hockey to be played before July, and the need to confirm fixtures for the 2020/21 season, it means that the league play-offs will not be contested and final placings will be when the season was halted.
It is understood that the two Division 1 North and South winners – the division leaders when the season halted – would be promoted to the Premier Division to make up the 11 teams.
This would see Swansea and Wimbledon start the 2020/21 season in the Women’s Premier Division, while for the first time Oxted and University of Durham will be confirmed as men’s Premier Division teams. The Premier Divisions are set to return to 10 teams for the 2021/22 season.
England Hockey, like other mainstream sports, has been faced with a series of complex and unprecedented scenarios to decide league outcomes following the coronavirus pandemic.
And EH is expected to acknowledge to clubs that “no solution is perfect” following the board’s expected ratification.
Six teams look set to be negatively impacted in relation to promotion and relegation in Division One and Conference. The league recommendations – one of which was to play the remaining league fixtures – mean that Bowdon men and Leicester City women, who both could have finished top of their respective divisions, would be left most hard done by.
In a battle of the top two, Bowdon men were due to play University of Durham on the final day in the Division One North. Meanwhile Leicester women were level on points with Swansea but regulations state the league is decided on games won, rather than on goal difference.
The Premier Division recommendations, seen by The Hockey Paper, also mean that one team is set to stave off relegation in both Division One and Conference.
As far as the final league placings in the elite top flight go, recommendations have also been put forward on standings to be judged on matches between the top four sides. This would mean: (Men: 1. Surbiton 2. Wimbledon 3. H&W 4. Old Georgians. Women: 1. Surbiton 2. East Grinstead 3. H&W 4. Buckingham). However, it is not known yet whether regular season placings or matches against each other will be the final outcome.
England Hockey will now set upon a fixtures list for 2020/21 and plan for a ‘normal’ season.
One of the options available if the sport is further impacted include teams playing every opponent once before the top and bottom half split and teams playing the other teams in their half once.
We understand EH is set to communicate its outcome later on Tuesday.
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