Hockey clubs call for change to ‘crazy’ schedule

Surbiton men's coach Todd Williams is unhappy with scheduling of key game

As domestic hockey enters a two-month winter break, players and coaches are calling on their governing body to bring the league in line with their European counterparts.

After last weekend’s round of matches, Surbiton sit second in the NOW:Pensions Premier Division, just a point behind leaders East Grinstead.

When they return to action on 7 February, the two pacesetters face each other in what will arguably be the biggest game of the season, the timing of which has angered Surbiton men’s coach Todd Williams.

“The league table says the East Grinstead game is going to be a really important match,” Williams said.

“If we are the two best teams in the competition, isn’t it much better that the teams go into the game with appropriate levels of preparation and in a climate that makes people want to come and watch?

“It is a crazy format in this country because on the continent all the teams have a long winter break and they play indoor.

“If we were in Germany this match would be at the end of March, but we are going to be scrabbling around in early February with the weather at its worst and with limited preparation.

“You will have to ask England hockey why they think that’s a good idea. They couldn’t make it harder for people if they tried. But it is not my decision – it’s theirs.”

His claims are echoed by Brooklands MU midfielder Oli Clements, who believes the hockey hierarchy could be doing more to help the success of the top league.

“England Hockey don’t help the popularity of the league in the way that it’s put on at the minute,” Clements claimed.

“The winter break is definitely something to think about – I don’t understand why they want to get the season done so quickly.

“For this sport to really go to the next level they need to make the domestic league a more exciting proposition.

“What would fans prefer, watching a game in spring with a beer and a BBQ going or a rainy evening in February when even the players don’t want to be on the pitch – It’s a no brainer.

“It is widely known that England Hockey don’t value the Premier Division because they don’t think it is a high enough standard and as a result they don’t invest in it.

“You’ve only got to look at Holcombe who are playing in the league below and they’ve got six or seven players who play in the England team.

“But if they improve the quality of the league that will increase the pool of players they’ve got to pick from and the England players are going to get harder competition week in week out.

“The best teams in the world – The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium – they all have pretty much completely professional leagues.

“There’s got to be a correlation there, because they are strong domestically and strong nationally.

“I appreciate it is difficult but England Hockey’s solution is to abandon the Premier Division rather than putting investment into improving it – I think they’ve got it wrong.”

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