The men’s England Hockey League is currently sponsored by NOW:Pensions, whilst Investec sponsor the women’s league. Both leagues are administered by the England Hockey Board, the national governing body for hockey in England. Although the leagues are made up almost entirely of English club sides, there are a small number of Welsh clubs in the leagues.
The structure of the men’s and women’s leagues is identical, so the following information applies equally to both.
Each league comprises of four divisions, which are made up of ten clubs in each division. The top division is known as the Premier Division. The second tier is made up three Conference Divisions organised along geographical lines – North, East and West.
PREMIER DIVISION – RELEGATION AND PROMOTION
At the end of the season the team finishing 10th (last) in the Premier Division is relegated to the most appropriate Conference for where the club is located. The team finishing 9th enters the play-offs. They are joined in the play-offs by the Champions of the three Conferences. The two sides finishing top in the play-offs join the Premier Division the following season. The remaining two play in the Conferences the following season.
CONFERENCES – JOINING THE LEAGUE RELEGATION.
Under the three Conferences are five feeder leagues, which are administered locally and are not part of the England Hockey League. However, they are important because they are the feeders for clubs joining the England Hockey League. They are organised on regional lines and are located in the North, South, East, West and Midlands. These feeder leagues often have complex structures of their own, but they all have a top division, which is typically called ‘Premier League’ preceded by the name of the region.
It is usually the top side from each of the feeder leagues which is promoted to the England Hockey League at the end of the season. However, the rules of the England Hockey League do not allow more than one team from the same club to join*, and frequently it results in the second (or sometimes third) place club being promoted instead.
The promoted clubs go into the most appropriate Conference for their location. It is sometimes necessary for England Hockey to move a club from one Conference to another at the end of the season to balance out the numbers.
The three clubs that finish at the bottom of the Conferences are all relegated to the appropriate feeder league for their location. The clubs which finish 9th take part in a play-off competition against each other. The club that wins the play-offs stays in the England Hockey League and the remaining two sides are relegated to the most appropriate feeder league.
*The rule agains a a club having more than one side in the England Hockey League does not apply if the two teams are from di. Many clubs have both men’s and women’s sides in the League.
CHAMPIONSHIP PLAY-OFFS AND EUROPEAN QUALIFICATION
At the end of the season England Hockey organise a play-off to decide who can be called League Champions. This involves the four top clubs from the Premier Division. It also acts as a qualifier for European competitions, although the club that finishes top of the league automatically qualifies. However, there remains an incentive for the club finishing top to do well in the play-offs, because the final position may have a result on their seeding in Europe.
England currenty have two places in the Euro Hockey League (having recently been reduced from three). In the past a Welsh member of the England Hockey League has qualified for the Euro Hockey League as Welsh champions.
The women have a different competition in Europe known as the Club Champions Cup. England’s women have two places in Europe, but the most recent position was that they only had one place in the top tier of the competition.
All about the England Hockey League
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