Monday, December 11, 2023

English domestic hockey in line for September opening

From Surbiton down to grass roots, our campaign is aimed at all clubs PIC: Simon Parker

By Cassie Worth

Women’s outdoor champions Surbiton will play national indoor champions Buckingham, while East Grinstead men open up against newcomers Oxted in a tasty local derby when the Premier Division opening weekend gets under way in under 30 days’ time.

Pre-season matches have been taking place and there now remains a “judgement call” by England Hockey for Step 5 to commence and a full return to competitive league action after a six-month hiatus. Further down the chain, school and leisure centre closures pose a considerable problem for matches to resume.

With government also allowing spectators back to watch sporting action in some capacity this will hopefully not curtail our #watchyour1s campaign to begin a second season given our agenda.

England Hockey recently announced a ‘split league’ structure in the Men’s and Women’s Premier Divisions – which is set to start without a main sponsor across both leagues following Investec’s decision to end its deal.

The Premier Division, with 11 teams, will see every side play each other once before Christmas in Phase 1, before splitting into two pools made up of the top six and lower five teams.

After Christmas, Phase 2 will see teams in the lower five play each other twice, while teams in the top six face the other teams in the group once.

England Hockey says that this structure “will support more ‘best vs best hockey’; provide a structure where ‘every game matters’; optimise Euro Hockey League/European Club Championships preparation and support international players’ immersion in the England Hockey League.”

The Premier Division will start on Sep 19/20 and Division One/Conferences beginning the following week.

“This will all continue to be led by the Return to Play Roadmap,” added England Hockey.

Due to the pandemic, The Hockey Paper has yet to finalise its plans for a return to print. We will be previewing the landscape of English domestic hockey in the coming weeks, including our bid to get the public watching domestic hockey.

Please help keep independent journalism alive in these uncertain times. With the media industry affected by advertising, we are continuing to offer our coverage free until we return in print.

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