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Ipswich Hockey Club's Ladies I promoted after league season is scrapped due to Covid-19 restrictions

The East Hockey League has declared its Men's Premier A and Women's Premier Division 2020/21 seasons null and void.

However, there is still some positive news for Ipswich Hockey Club after confirmation that their Ladies' first team have been promoted to the National League.

Early last month it was announced that while a large majority of the campaigns in the East League had been scrapped due to the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown, teams in the top men's and women's divisions were going to be given the choice as to whether or not they wanted to play things out to a conclusion.

This was due to a need to promote teams ahead of the 2021/22 season getting under way, with England Hockey keen to implement their planned restructure.

But while seven teams had indicated a desire to play on, the government restriction that prevents players from sharing car journeys to and from matches/training has proven to be the sticking point.

Therefore, a formula had to be deployed to determine which sides would be going up and Ipswich, who held a four-point lead at the top of the table heading into the third lockdown, were among those to be given the green light.

A statement from East League secretary Neil Liversedge read: "Despite having seven teams from both of the existing Premier Divisions deciding they would like to complete a minimum league season with everyone playing once, it is clear that the final stages of any competition had to be played safely and as a minimum in line with Level 5 of England Hockey's Return to Play program and with clear guidance regarding travelling safely involving car sharing.

"Following the announcement by the government made on Monday and following advice received from England Hockey yesterday there is no change to the car share guidelines. An excerpt of the England Hockey statement to Regional Leagues is given below:

"Car sharing now is not expected to be permitted for sport until at least Step 3 of the Governments Roadmap, no earlier than May 17. With travel being such an important part of making competition accessible and inclusive for so many, England Hockey recommends that Step 4 of our original Covid-19 Roadmap continues to be followed."

"Therefore the Mr Cricket Hockey East League Men's Premier A and Women's Premier Division for the 2020/21 season shall be declared null and void.

!The East League Management Committee saw it as essential that any competition for promotion to the EHL should be subject to a level playing field for all competing teams. This includes pitch, changing facilities, toilets and player availability, as well as the end of the ban on car sharing and that is currently not possible.

"To make a minimum season, where every team played each other once would have involved a 4-week playing program and with the earliest possible playing date being late in May the timing is unrealistic and beyond the latest play-by date(s) set by a majority of the clubs and certainly outside the recommended season end date off England Hockey of May 16.

"Whilst the East League management committee recognises that some teams will be disappointed we think, when taking all of these factors into consideration, that we have come to both the right and the logical decision. We have repeatedly tried to ensure that the season by resolved on field, but we have seemingly been beaten at each hurdle through this season.

"To determine the teams going from the East Men's Premier A and Women's Premier Division into the EHL, the East League Management Committee has agreed to follow the advice provided by England Hockey in regard to closing the season without the requisite number of games being played (guidance already followed by the West Women's League, the South Wales and South West Men's League, the South Women's League and both the North Men's and Women's League League).

"This looked at the league table following the conclusion of the 2019/20 season and ranking the teams in the Premier Divisions with those teams relegated from the EHL ranked highest and those teams promoted into the division from a lower division being ranked lowest.

"We are therefore pleased to announce that from the Mr Cricket Hockey East Men's Premier A Division Bedford and Cambridge University Men and from the Women's Premier Division Broxbourne 1st X1 and Ipswich 1st X1 shall be promoted back to the England Hockey National League.

"Let's hope we can take part in the 2021/22 season in a safe environment, where hockey can once again be enjoyed by all."

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