Monday, June 24, 2024

Is the rise of university hockey a positive for England Premier Divisions?

Ross Bone delves deep into the university game, speaks to coaches and asks whether student or affiliated clubs are a future positive at Premier Division level

With Isca and University of Exeter securing their promotion to the Vitality Women’s Premier Division for the first time, the number of university and university-affiliated clubs in the top flight has swelled to four, whilst on the men’s side, Cardiff and Met’s promotion has ensured that the Men’s Premier Division still has two such teams despite the relegation of Brooklands MU and University of Exeter from the top flight.  

If you take a look around the rest of the leagues, you can’t help but notice the increasing presence of university clubs or university affiliated clubs throughout the divisions.

A lot of the discussion around this that I’ve seen seems to paint this as a negative situation. I’ve seen people calling it a “threat” to other clubs in the system. Some are even saying they should not be allowed to compete in the league pyramid. It would be easy for me to jump on the bandwagon as others have but actually I feel it can be a positive for the leagues as a whole. 

The university tie-in

One of the criticisms levelled at our domestic game is the increasing ‘southernisation’ of the Premier Leagues in particular.

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  1. I’m not sure why people have a problem with university teams in the league, as long as the same rules apply equally to all clubs, then it’s a level playing field

    I’ve been on the end of some absolute drubbings at the hands of student teams, but I’ve also enjoyed some of my best performances to beat them. Most students are only going to play for their uni for 3 seasons, hopefully leaving fitter and better coached than when the started and another non-uni club will benefit

    Different clubs play different roles in the eco system. My club creates players from ages 4-18 and exports them, mostly to university. Generally we don’t get them back and most of our adult players will tend to be parent age themselves. Outside of our first teams, that’s our demographic. There’s no point complaining about it, it is just our reality

  2. The bigger impact on hockey is the over complicated structure of the league with multiple phases. I am not going to criticise the format used last season but suggest an alternative that is consistent with fair competition.

    The Premier League has 12 teams and the league needs to build and develop interest from players and spectators alike and build incentives so that games count.

    I propose each team plays each other twice (home and away). The top 2 qualify for the semifinals and the next 4 play off in quarterfinals with the winners making up the 4 semifinalists. The bottom 2 are relegated. The 4 other teams Will be playing to avoid relegation or to join the quarterfinalists. I think this format is simple, effective and maintains a team’s focus on the competition until the end of the season.

    I was so disappointed with last season that I felt the need to propose an alternative. I hope that England Hockey will listen and act accordingly.

  3. Many grads stop playing when leaving university & give nothing back to the game or the club that taught them, often with unpaid volunteers.

  4. How many players resume playing hockey when they go to Uni?
    How many clubs have over 100 youngsters turning up to training but then, at the weekend, struggle to get decent sides out?
    The problem may be some clubs running a closed shop for their children to be selected.
    May be the universities should have a pre-req that their selected players are current members of an official club.


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