Reivers set for competitive return in new hockey conference

Borders hockey players could be back in domestic competitive action by the end of next week.

Thursday, 8th October 2020, 4:00 pm
Janet Jack

Borders hockey players could be back in domestic competitive action by the end of next week.

Scottish Hockey’s management committee has met to confirm that competitions will begin on Saturday, October 17.

Following consultation with clubs and updated travel restrictions from the Scottish Government, competition will now take the form of temporary local conferences.

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For the remainder of 2020, or until restrictions sufficiently ease to allow a full league restart, teams will play in conferences primarily split by distance.

Within these conferences, teams will play against teams similar to them, based on previous ranking.

Fjordhus Reivers ladies’ squad is in Women’s East Conference A, alongside Edinburgh Cala Hockey Club, Edinburgh University, Erskine Stewart’s Melville, Grange, Inverleith and the Watsonian Hockey Club.

The season will run until December, should the appropriate restrictions not ease before then, and no promotion or relegation places will be awarded, based on these conferences.

Fixtures will be released early next week, with teams playing each other either once or twice depending on conference numbers.

The Premiership, like the other leagues, is ‘on hold’ and may start, subject to financial modelling, board approval and entry numbers. Premiership teams will be placed into the conference structure for the immediate term.

European places will be decided either through a Premiership season or in an end-of-season competition involving Premiership clubs, subject to restrictions, in a format agreed by the premiership’s management group.

The management committee also confirmed matches must be played on a synthetic surface but not necessarily a water-based surface.

As a stand-alone structure, there will be no impact on previous leagues. This allows clubs the freedom to participate without the threat of losing titles or relegation.

Janet Jack, Fjordhus Reivers player-coach and an experienced international, said: “As a club, we are delighted to be getting back to league hockey, even though in a very different format in the Conference League. We completely understand and accept why the changes have been made, which is to encourage area competition to reduce the amount of travel as a result of being unable to car-share.

“We are excited to be playing in the top flight of hockey in East District, in particular having the opportunity to play last year’s premier champions, Edinburgh University, and a very strong Watsonians side.

“These will be tough games for our young and relatively inexperienced squad but also a great chance for our youngsters to play against some top class international players. Our Ladies 1s have nothing to lose in this league and will gain loads of experience. We hope to put up a strong challenge and steal some points from other teams in the League.”

Clubs can enter this new format with a developmental approach and view it in the context of current challenges presented by Covid-19 restrictions.

Scottish Hockey’s aim is to provide a structure that allows safe participation and as such will not be as stringent on previous rules and regulations. It asks that clubs enter with the right spirit and acknowledge that a ‘win at all costs’ approach should be replaced with a development mentality.

A review of competitions and Government restrictions will take place prior to January. A suitable format will be proposed after then for the remainder of the traditional season timeline.

Scottish Hockey’s indoor season will not start until January 2021 at the earliest. This is down to current Scottish Government guidance, challenges in venue availability, as well as the prospect of the outdoor season potentially running until mid-December.

Scottish Hockey will engage with clubs on the viability of the indoor season in the coming weeks.

David Sweetman, CEO of Scottish Hockey, said: “This will be Scottish Hockey’s most challenging season. Covid-19 will still be with us and we must all do what we can to deliver a good level of competitive activity as safely as possible, following all guidelines.

“Although there isn’t a perfect solution that’s ideal for all clubs to the COVID challenges, we’ve engaged and worked hard to find the best solution available at this time.

“It’s exciting to finally be in the position to confirm when we intend to start the new conference competition and I thank all the clubs, members, volunteers and staff for their hard work in getting to this point.”