Surbiton crowned double champions as England Hockey reconciles 2019/20 season
Following the suspension of domestic hockey in March and the decision that no domestic hockey would be played before 30 June, this morning the England Hockey Board met and is now in a position to confirm how the 2019-20 England Hockey League season will be concluded. This varies from the standard League regulations.
England Hockey has fully considered other sports’ decisions at this time, as well as other possible options open to us before coming to these solutions. Compared to other possible alternatives these are judged to negatively and positively impact a smaller number of teams.
Following a full analysis of all possible options and a period of discussion, the key points are summarised below:
i. League Finals – As the league semi-finals and final were unplayed the Champions of the League and qualification for European competition will be determined by the standings at the end of the regular season. This means that Surbiton are both men’s and women’s league champions.
ii. Promotion & Relegation – Teams’ standings when the league stopped will be their final standings. Existing promotion and relegation regulations will be applied based on these standings (subject to iii below), including promotion from Regional Leagues.
iii. League Play-Offs – It is judged that there is no fair method to resolve the league play-offs in line with regulations. Under normal circumstances, the play-offs would see the two Division One North & South winners and Premier Division ninth-placed team play off for two Premier Division places. For 2020-21 season only the Premier Division will run with eleven teams, all of these three teams will play in the Premier Division. This also means that one team is reprieved relegation at both Division One and Conference levels. Existing relegation regulations at these levels have been extended to determine which teams are reprieved. These are, based on teams’ playing records in parallel divisions, where the ninth-placed team with the highest number of points retain its position and the other ninth-placed team(s) relegated.
England Hockey took this decision guided by the following principles. These were in priority order:
1) To retain the integrity of the competition and use existing regulations relating to promotion and relegation where possible – the outcome to be as close as possible to likely outcome for teams had the season concluded and therefore to be seen as fair.
2) A consistency of decisions for teams at different levels within the league.3) Teams not to be disadvantaged by games that were not played.
There is of course no perfect solution to resolve an unprecedented issue such as this, but the decisions best complement these principles and affect the fewest teams.
Ultimately, decisions have been based on what has happened in 85 out of 90 games in a Division, not what might happen in five out of 90 games. A number of promotion and relegation issues were ordinarily resolved prior to the last round of matches not being played.
Nick Pink, England Hockey Chief Executive stated, “These are unprecedented times for all of us, and we are grateful to clubs for their patience while we finalised the fairest course of action. We have undertaken a very thorough process and have arrived at a solution that gives us a roadmap of how we can get the Leagues back up and running as soon as possible. We congratulate all teams who have won their division. We commiserate with relegated teams and others negatively impacted by the season being curtailed.”
As mentioned, England Hockey has considered other sports’ decisions, as well as other possible options open to us. Compared to alternatives these are judged to negatively and positively impact a smaller number of teams.
For that reason it was felt it was not appropriate to declare the season null and void, a decision other sports and some other hockey leagues have taken. It was also agreed that scheduling the outstanding matches in the league finals, play-offs and league at some time between the end of June and the beginning of the 2020-21 season, even though small in number, was not practical for reasons as outlined as follows:
It would not be possible for players’ eligibility to be based on the 2019-20 season when some players will be likely to move clubs and train with them in the summer and pre-season. Although planning for next season is on the basis it will go ahead as normal, this is not guaranteed and fixtures may need to be rescheduled. This would be further complicated if matches relating to 2019-20 also needed to be rescheduled and played before the league could restart. For most of the outstanding key League matches the outcome is only critical to one of the teams and the availability of the opposition might not be consistent with a fixture played on the scheduled date in terms of preparation and availability.
The make-up of Division 1 North & South and the three Conferences is determined by teams’ geographic locations. Fixtures and venues need to be planned well in advance of the season. Teams could not be easily slotted into the relevant Division after the completion of additional fixtures.
Another possible solution was to have no relegations from the Conferences, noting that, if passed, the proposed changes in ‘A Structure Fit for the Future’ relating to the governance of the sport would see the league increase in size from 60 to 70 teams in 2021-22 season. However this would see a number of teams, who would have been unable to avoid relegation had the season concluded normally, being reprieved and of course the decision on the ‘A Structure Fit for the Future’ proposal has itself not been able to be concluded due to the adjourned England Hockey AGM.
One more possible solution was, based on the final round of matches, promote all teams who could possibly be promoted and reprieve all teams who could possibly avoid relegation. However in solving some issues it would also create new issues – requiring additional subjective decisions, not based on existing regulations, to set some of the Divisions in 2020-21, increasing the number of teams impacted by not playing the final round of league matches as well as leading to an imbalance of promotion and relegation-avoiding opportunities for teams from parallel divisions.
Investec Women’s League
Premier Division Champions & 1st ranked European Club Championships – Surbiton
Runners-Up and 2nd ranked European Club Championships – East Grinstead
9th place and retain status – University of Birmingham
10th place and relegated – Bowdon Hightown
Division One North Champions & promoted – Swansea
9th place and retain status – Belper
10th place and relegated – Leeds
Division One South Champions & promoted – Wimbledon 9th place and reprieved relegation – Isca
10th place and relegated – St Albans
Conference East Champions & promoted – Wimbledon 2s
9th place and relegated – Broxbourne
10th place and relegated – Ipswich
Conference North Champions & promoted – University of Nottingham
9th place and reprieved relegation – Doncaster
10th place and relegated – Beeston 2s
Conference West Champions & promoted – Surbiton 2s
9th place and retain status – Team Bath Buccaneers
10th place and relegated – University of Bristol
You can see the final Investec Women’s Hockey League standings here.
Men’s Hockey League
Premier Division Champions & 1st ranked EuroHockey League – Surbiton
Runners-Up and 2nd ranked EuroHockey League – Hampstead & Westminster9th place and retain status – University of Exeter
10th place and relegated – Reading
Division One North Champions & promoted – University of Durham
9th place and reprieved relegation – City of Peterborough
10th place and relegated – Leeds
Division One South Champions & promoted – Oxted
9th place and retain status – Teddington
10th place and relegated – Fareham
Conference East Champions & promoted – Cambridge City
9th place and retain status – Bromley & Beckenham
10th place and relegated – Bedford
Conference North Champions & promoted – Deeside Ramblers
9th place and relegated – Wakefield
10th place and relegated – Alderley Edge
Conference West Champions & promoted – Old Cranleighans
9th place and reprieved relegation – Cheltenham
10th place and relegated – University of Exeter 2s
You can see the final Men’s Hockey League standings here.
Impact on planning for season 2020-21
The standard requirement on the conclusion of the league and any play-offs is to agree the geographic make-up of the Divisions 1 North & South and Conferences based on the teams at each level. This will now be undertaken. Planning for the 2020-21 season, in the first instance, is that it will run as normal. Currently the first rounds of matches are due to be held on 26 & 27 September 2020 however we will also start planning for different scenarios should that not be possible.
Regulations relating to promotion and relegation for 2020-21 season will be revised to reduce the size of the Premier Division to normal, maintain ten-team divisions at all other levels of the league for 2021-22 and to incorporate any changes in line with ‘A Structure Fit for the Future’ if agreed.
As part of the discussion process, England Hockey provided information on this matter to a small number of people. We are very disappointed in the breach of trust that has led to this information reaching the public domain earlier than intended. We are particularly unhappy that we did not have the chance to give the clubs affected by our decision the courtesy of a call before the information went public. Interested parties should also note that an article published elsewhere was not accurate and errors should be disregarded in favour of this official communication.
As noted this is not a straightforward situation for the league in unprecedented circumstances. In doing so decisions relating to promotion and relegation are based on what has happened in 85 out of 90 games in a Division, not what might happen in 5 out of 90 games.
England Hockey, whilst recognising that not all parties will agree with the rulings, believes it has followed a robust process to reach the most appropriate outcomes that means teams and leagues can start planning for a resumption of our great sport which we of course all hope will be later this year.