What is the England Hockey League?
The England Hockey League is the top tier of club hockey in England*. Men and women each have their own leagues, both of which have an identical structure.
At the top is the Premier Division. This is a truly national league consisting of the ten best clubs in the country. Beneath the Premier Division there are three ‘Conference’ divisions, North, East and West, also consisting of ten teams each.
Under the Conferences there are five regional leagues – North, South, East, West and Midlands. These are not part of the England Hockey League but are important because they act as feeders. The champions from these leagues are automatically promoted to the England Hockey League at the end of the season. It is also where clubs relegated out of the England Hockey League go.
*Some Welsh teams play in England’s West Regional League and gain promotion to the England Hockey League West Conference via this route.
Promotion and relegation – how it works
At the end of each season the team finishing 10th in the Premier Division is automatically relegated to the Conference appropriate to its location.
The 9th team from the Premier Division goes into a play-off tournament with the champions of the three Conferences. The teams coming 1st and 2nd in the play-offs play in the Premier Division the following season.
The teams that finish 10th in their respective Conferences are automatically relegated to the appropriate regional league.
The 9th placed teams from the three Conferences enter a play-off against each other. The winning team remains in the League. The other two teams are relegated to the appropriate regional league.
Access to the League is automatic for the champions of the five regional leagues. They are placed in the most appropriate Conference division. This can sometimes result in clubs already in one of the Conferences changing Conference so that the numbers in each can be kept at ten.
There are different competitions for men and women in Europe.
England is currently allocated three places in the men’s EuroHockey League. Qualification was formerly on the basis that the top three clubs in the men’s Premier Division qualified. However, with effect from the 2009-2010 season, the top five sides in the Premier Division play-off to decide which three clubs qualify. The league champions gain automatic qualification whatever the outcome of the play-offs, but where they finish in the play-offs will decide where they are seeded when the EuroHockey League Round 1 draw takes place.
The 2009-2010 season sees the introduction of a new clubs competition for women’s club in Europe. This mimics the Men’s EuroHockey League in many respects but involves fewer clubs. England is currently allocated two clubs for this competition, which is the maximum number. For the current season the top two women’s clubs in the Premier Division qualify. There has been some discussion about introducing a play-off competition to decide which two English clubs qualify.
You can find out more about the European club competition on our EuroHockey Clubs pages by CLICKING HERE.
What about indoor hockey?
England Hockey currently run a national indoor league which is played over two weekends over the December/January break. The structure is identical for men and women. The league is divided into three divisions – Premier, Division One and Division Two, although the latter play as a North and South Division during its first weekend.
There is a bonus for the four clubs that top the Premier Divisions. They go on to play in the National Indoor Club Championships, which is usually held at a large venue and is often televised. This event was held for many years at Crystal Palace before moving to the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham. Its current venue is the Trent FM Arena in Nottingham.