Sunday, May 19, 2024

England Hockey ratifies late season change to relegation places

With the domestic campaign set to wrap up next month, England Hockey has made a dramatic late change to relegation places as it ratified 12 Premier Division teams for the 2022/23 season.

Under current rules, two clubs were set for relegation but this U-turn so late in the season means that only teams finishing 11th in the respective Premier Divisions will be demoted to Divison One, while clubs finishing 10th will be reprieved.

It means that the complexion changes to the Bottom 5 league, with just three games remaining. In the men’s Premier Division, University of Exeter and Durham University both sit bottom on seven points and it is now a straight fight between the two sides to avoid the drop. Swansea are currently bottom of the women’s Premier Divison, and need to claw back an eight-point deficit behind Loughborough Students and Holcombe.

England Hockey’s decision comes as it bids to align itself with the international calendar and follows format changes to Season 4 of the FIH Pro League. It will be the first time that the top flight has reverted to 12 clubs since the old national league days.

It is understood that the intention is to retain the mid-season split, which will now consist of Top 6 and Bottom 6. England Hockey is currently in consultation with clubs as to how to make the mini leagues hold more interest, which could include end-of-season play-offs. EH is set to announce a final decision before June 1.

“We recognise this decision is later in the season than we and the clubs would have wished,” England Hockey said in a message to its league teams.

The problems faced by England Hockey over the years has seen a stand-off between club and country, where elite clubs have suffered player losses due to international clashes.

The changes to the FIH Pro League aims to stem the issues faced by the domestic game and help Bisham-based players become more availabile with their clubs.

The Pro League calendar is critical to this. However, there are still clashes with global competition for next season. The women’s Premier Division is likely to start slightly later in September due to EuroHockey Championship qualifiers. GB men and women also play Pro League events in Argentina during December, while the men’s World Cup is set for next January in India.

The Premier Division is set to retain the mid-season split PIC: Theresa Waight

There is no plan to extend the top flight into May like other continental federations, while GB is set to hold Pro League events in May/June next year.

The Hockey Paper has asked England Hockey to shed light on promotion and relegation for this year. According to rule 4.1, EH’s competition panel can change the variation in line with its regulations.

In April 2020, THP broke the news that England Hockey was set to steer clear of a void season and ratify league proposals which would include moving to 11 teams for the 2020/21 men’s and women’s Premier Divisions.

The impact of England Hockey’s latest ratification also means that one team finishing ninth across Division One North & South and one team finishing ninth across the four Conferences will also be reprieved relegation.

England Hockey added in its missive to clubs: “Where a reprieve is granted across parallel Divisions this is determined by Points Per Match, ie at each level the 9th placed team with the most points will be reprieved with goal difference then goals scored used if two or more teams are level.”

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