The Irish Hockey Association has announced plans to further reform its domestic hockey competition structures, to improve overall competitiveness and performance standards within the game.
To take effect in September 2007 for the 2007/08 season, the reforms are centred exclusively around the top end domestic leagues, namely Provincial Division One/Premier Leagues and Senior Interprovincial Tournaments.
“The IHA has invested a lot of time and effort into exploring various ways to improve
“Reform is essential if we are to develop top players capable of fulfilling the goals we have set for our national teams. It is also crucial to improve competitiveness at all levels to ensure that all clubs and players in Irish hockey can compete effectively and enjoy success.
“In doing so, we are laying important foundations to strengthen our impressive club base and continue to increase our participant rates.”
The reforms take a strong club focus to ensuring that the top teams and top players play each other more often and lower level teams can compete meaningfully and have a genuine chance of success in the competitions in which they compete.
Central to the plans is the creation of two regional conferences – the Northern Conference and the Southern Conference – in which the top clubs from
Top finishing clubs from the conferences then qualify for a nine-team National Superleague, which will replace the existing Club Championships. A National Plate will be held simultaneously for clubs that do not qualify for the National Superleague.
The entire new competition spans 16-18 weeks, which is the number of weeks per year that it is anticipated that international players will be available for club action annually under the Association’s new High Performance Plan.
“This format is ideal from a high performance athletes’ perspective and their continuing involvement in domestic programs is ensured. When we examined the international competition calendar across a four year cycle it was obvious that we could only ever ensure international involvement for 16-18 weeks.
“This structure increases the level of competition through the year which has an obvious advantage yet ensures flexibility in the domestic program, whilst giving natural blocks on competition.”
Under the new plan, restructured Provincial Leagues will also now be required to have their top division made up exclusively of 1st XI teams, to promote new and small club development.
All 17 regional conference clubs will also now enter the Irish Senior Cup in the third round, as opposed to the top eight clubs at present.
The IHA have also announced that the winners of the senior Interprovincial Tournament will now be entered into European Club Championship competition, with the winners of the National Superleague representing
Irish Senior Cup winners will no longer qualify for European competition under the system.
“With the structure of European club hockey currently under review, it is essential that our European entrants are competing consistently at ‘A’ Division,” said Varian.
The IHA will be conducting three regional competitions workshops in March to fully outline the new competition plans and answer questions from its affiliates and hockey public. The plan will then be put to a Special General Meeting in May for full endorsement from the IHA’s affiliates.
“Domestic competition structure is a topic very close to the heart of Irish hockey clubs and it is important that they are fully onside with any reform that is instituted,” IHA Chairman John Dennis said.
“It is the opinion of the Board that a Special General Meeting is the best way to ensure this is achieved.”
A copy of the IHA Domestic Competition Reform Plan is available on www.hockey.ie.
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