Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rough Guide to the Euro Hockey League – the future of hockey?


“The best way hockey has ever been presented” announces the website of the Euro Hockey League (EHL), only there is no information whatsoever on the page at the time of writing. So what’s so special about the tournament?

The EHL is replacing the men’s European Club Championships, doing an impersonation of football’s Champions League with 24 of the continent’s finest club outfits taking part. They have rightly ditched the ‘champions’ tag, though, as only half the tournaments qualifiers have actually won their domestic competition. Irish Club Champions, Pembroke Wanderers are Ireland’s sole representatives.

The tournament promises to take the promotion of the game to a whole new level, with giant big-screens for the supporters in the stadiums, seating capacity for a minimum of 1,800 people, up to 15 camera angles including in-goal cameras and an elevated ‘flycam’. But most excitingly, though, if Pembroke get through to the second phase, David Harte will double as a cameraman. In-helmet cameras will be used to give goalkeeper’s perspectives.

No doubt this will be the highest standard tournament European clubs have ever seen but there are already a few concerns about the distribution of the cash windfalls that are available. In the football equivalent, the same teams, year on year, make the knockout stages and getting the big pay day. The wedge created between the haves and have-nots is clear in the English Premiership with the ‘big 4’ so far ahead of the rest. Will it lead to a concentration of talent at the big clubs likely to qualify, leaving the smaller clubs behind? Will any of the revenue created trickle back down to the grass roots of hockey?

Ireland, though, would seem more resilient to such pressures with only one qualifying spot and our three province system with players rarely moving province for the promise of European hockey. But for the Dutch, Spanish, German and English clubs, such problems are a real concern for those challenging to break into the upper echelons.

Pembroke, for their part, open their campaign on November 2nd in the first round, where they need to end up in the top two of their three team group which includes against Spanish runners-up Egara and Polish winners KS Pocztowiec Poznan. Egara are current Copa del Rey holders and come complete with five of the Spanish squad that reached the European final in August, including the Alegre brothers and Eduard Tubau. Poznan finished 7th in this year’s European championships. Piotr Mikula (31) is well-known to Spanish opposition, having scored one of the most outrageous hat-tricks in the 2000 Olympics in a 4-1 thrashing of Spain.
The first group stage begins in Royal Antwerp along with three other 3-team groups. A further four groups take place at HGC, the Netherlands. 16 teams go through to the second set of group stages in March 2008. Get through this group and you qualify for, you guessed it, yet another set of groups in May 2008 which will decide the eventual winner.

The European Cup Winner’s Cup has now been replaced by the less snappily titled Men’s Club Trophy. Glenanne are in a group with Grasshopper Zurich, SK Slavia Praha and Kolos Sekoia, who Cork Harlequins beat last year to claim one of the winner’s berths in the B division. The winners of this tournament, however, will not gain promotion to the Euro league but will gain ranking points which affect the amount of entrants receives.


Excited? Concerned? How do you think Pembroke will do? Have your say...

5 comments:

Queso said...

I understand Pembroke originally applied to host Round 1. Pity they were unsuccessful, would've been great to see that amount of top quality club hockey in one place over a long weekend!!

decoy said...

Nice idea! The Euro Hockey league website is live.

http://www.eurohockeyleague.eu/

Maybe RTE will cover it? What are the chances...

Anonymous said...

"They have rightly ditched the ‘champions’ tag, though, as only half the tournaments qualifiers have actually won their domestic competition."

What makes you say that? All national champions from the participating 12 countries are in the EHL, as far as I can see...

Anonymous said...

12 out of 24 participating teams. 12/24? a half sounds about right to me

Anonymous said...

The champions league in football isnt only for the champions of their national league.. if u finish 2nd in eng, spain or italy u qualify... they shud call it the champions league..