5 things that need to happen before promotion and relegation between the EIHL and NIHL.

There has been a lot of talk of promotion and relegation between the EIHL and NIHL National League over the last few months. In the UK, professional sport is seen as the purest form of meritocracy, with promotion and relegation the ultimate proof of success or failure. 

Despite this, promotion and relegation can be an issue for any sport expanding in popularity. Often promotion or relegation proves to be a destabilising factor for many teams, sadly resulting in teams suffering financial issues. 


While the concept of promotion and relegation isn’t necessarily the correct path for domestic ice hockey in the United Kingdom, it is nevertheless something that would excite a great number of fans. We have proposed a list of things that would need to happen before a promotion and relegation system could successfully be implemented. 

1 - Upgrade the NIHL facilities.

There is no denying that the NIHL facilities need an upgrade, from the NIHL website to some of the rinks themselves. While there is no easy fix for many of these issues, particularly the venues. A long-term investment plan along with support from local councils would help solve the issue. 


A quick browse on the EIHL website reveals a slick and navigable interface, that clearly demonstrates information about the league itself, alongside information about teams. While there is less money invested in the NIHL, would a new website be a good place to start? A new website with easier access to information about the league would really help fans to keep up to date. Perhaps this would also help to attract new spectators to the league too. 


Venues are another story. The ice rink in Basingstoke is a good example of how these problems cannot be resolved easily. With the rink coming to the end of its lifecycle and the current landlords reluctant to complete any repairs on the rink or the building itself, it seems that a newly built rink is the only way to proceed. This will almost certainly cause an issue for the Bison despite the strong supporter base, and the Bison aren’t alone, issues with rinks have plagued the league. 


While these issues aren’t necessarily anyone’s fault, they are symptoms of older facilities that could do with an upgrade.

2 - Better grassroots setups.

I am sure this point will attract some angry responses however, this point isn’t made in criticism. The youth system has done some fantastic work over the past few years. There have been many successes, culminating in Liam Kirk becoming the first player born and trained in the UK to be selected by an NHL team. 


Building on this success, the sport has to build for the future. Therefore this means better grassroots support for the youngsters in the sport. The question is, what do the grassroots setups need to do to improve the prospects of young players? Could a greater number of coaches benefit hockey youngsters, allowing a smaller coach-to-player ratio would certainly allow for players to receive more tailored coaching? Perhaps finding some way to subsidise the cost of time on the ice would greatly improve the prospects of up-and-coming British hockey players.  

3 - More local rinks.

This one is a no-brainer, if you look at all the top ice hockey nations, they all have one thing in common. More ice rinks. Giving people access to more rinks encourages people to give hockey a go. Enticing more people into the sport either as spectators or as players is a surefire way of bolstering the sport in the UK. As greater numbers of players would only make the leagues far more competitive. 

While this is possibly the most obvious requirement in improving the nature of ice hockey in the UK, it also could be seen as the most difficult to put into action. Ice rinks are expensive and while temporary ice rinks see plenty of action over Christmas, it is expected that there will be a struggle to generate the footfall required to break even. It would therefore be expected that the government would have to step in to subsidise the rinks, which doesn’t seem like a possible outcome given the current economic climate. 

In our latest podcast with Liam Danskin, he spoke about his time in Canada. Liam claimed that the ice time was the most valuable aspect of this time across the Atlantic. Check out the podcast here

4 - Better media coverage at all levels.

Check out the BBC sport page, EIHL hardly gets a mention with NIHL games don’t get mentioned at all. Despite thousands of people attending and streaming games that is a real surprise. In order to step up the development of domestic ice hockey, the national media needs to be following the sport more actively. 


While regional media often focuses on local teams, it is clear that in order to develop the league further, we need nationwide access to the sport. This will help to generate further interest and therefore help to grow interest in both the Elite and the National leagues.

5 - Focus on giving ice time to local talent over import players.

This one is a much longer-term problem. Currently, many of the Elite League and NIHL stars are imports. While having import players isn’t necessarily a problem, there are very few who would argue that the influx of foreign players does restrict the opportunities of local players. 


We cannot simply ban foreign imports as they provide an extra level of quality to the UK’s quickly developing leagues. Perhaps an import cap could be a good place to start, allowing British players more spaces in teams would certainly allow for more players to progress through the system, therefore allowing the system to be more sustainable. 



There you have our 5 things that need to happen before the domestic leagues can consider promotion and relegation. These factors undoubtedly create more questions than answers, but what do you think? 


Do you think promotion and relegation would be a good idea? I would love to know what your opinion is, let me know in the comments. 🙂 


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