In our last update we promised to provide you with more information about the structure of our club and progress/planning for next season as it became available. We are now in a position to be able to update you with respect to both ENL and U13s.
First, the easy one – today our U13 team has won promotion back to Division 1. Congratulations to everyone involved in making that happen. Coaches, Managers and I hear the players had something to do with it too.
Now, to something slightly more complex, but no less positive; the situation with respect to English National League (ENL) and the progression for our older junior players.
As some of you are aware, the English Premier League (EPL) folded earlier this year due to an unsustainable financial structure. In the North that meant that three teams (Sheffield Steeldogs, Hull Pirates and Telford Tigers) effectively became ‘homeless’. There was a league meeting today in Sheffield to decide how to deal with this. In the end, after quite some discussion, each of those teams was admitted into ENL Division 1.
We already said in our last bulletin that we intended to play more junior and developing players into our ENL team, but that becomes more difficult as Division 1 accepts teams with an overtly more commercial focus and bigger budgets. At todays meeting the EIHA had Sutton Sting in Division 1 but, after careful consideration and a lot of consultation around the club, we have elected to move our ENL team to Division 2.
The impact of this decision is considerable; The level of ENL 2 hockey is such that we will now be able to play a lot more developing players into that team, but will still be high enough to stretch our best talent. The intended development route for the majority of our graduate U18s will now be into that ENL 2 team, which is a huge positive step. We have not given up D1 status lightly…it took a lot of earning, but the important thing for Sting is to make sure we have the best development path for our Juniors, and participation in ENL 1 next year would not have been that. A return to ENL 1 using primarily Sting-grown talent is obviously our plan.
We are still pursuing an U20 opportunity…more info on that as it develops, but there is considerable uncertainty about the viability of U20 in the EIHA at the moment, especially since the 3 year dispensation for registering U18s to U20 expires this year. The EIHA will, somehow, find a mechanism to fix this, but the process by which this happens isn’t clear yet.
Anyway, this was just a quick update. As previously, this is advance information and things do change, especially where the EIHA is involved, but there’s considerably more clarity over the opportunities for our older players now.