Players and clubs worst fears have been realised after all grassroots hockey was curtailed until December 4 at the earliest after England Hockey made a swift decision on Sunday night.
Usually the governing body has sought further clarification from the government during the pandemic but it confirmed the news 24 hours after the latest national lockdown annnouncement, which starts on Thursday, while EH raised hopes that training and “very local matches” may be able to take place before Christmas.
Officials hoped that hockey – from the Premier Divison down – would be able to return following demonstrations that the sport was Covid safe.
A statement read: “At England Hockey we continue to receive overwhelming feedback from participants that the physical and mental health benefits of being able to take part are significant.
“We recognise that the next few weeks will be challenging for those like us that love the game and will miss the opportunity to be out playing, coaching and officiating with friends.”
While sports such as rugby have been unable to play any community participation since March, hockey has been lucky in that the season was able to start on time, with the sport deemed safe to play outdoors.
England Hockey implemented promotion and relegation this season and only time will tell if the leagues will be able to be completed for 2020/21. Rules dictate that if teams haven’t played each other once then promotion/relegation will be scrapped. However, if all teams have competed with each other and all teams have played 80% or more of their scheduled matches – then the final table will be decided on a points percentage basis.
England Hockey said on Sunday that if Covid alert levels dipped after December 4, then “we are confident that clubs will be able to resume promptly in line with our previously-issued Return to Play guidance.”
It added: “To mitigate the risk of changes and with the uncertainty about what Level the club may be in at the end of this period, we recommend that the time until Christmas is used for training and very local matches. The aim of this is to ensure that activities fall in line with any Level-based restrictions that may be in place.”
EH added that communication to local clubs would continue in the coming days as the situation develops.