Hockey Gets Set to Go Indoors

The Indoor England Hockey League (EHL) leaps into action in little under a month with the Men’s and Women’s Premier Divisions being hosted at the same venue for the first time. 

Fleming Park Leisure Centre, Eastleigh, plays host to the two elite nine team divisions on 12-13 December, with the action starting at 10:30 on Saturday morning.  The Men’s and Women’s Premier Divisions will take place in each of Fleming Park’s two halls over the two weekends of competition (12-13 December & 9-10 January 2010) with each having the opportunity to play a weekend on the dedicated Sport Court pitch in the new hall, and on a wooden sprung floor in the main hall.  This is the first time England Hockey (EHB, the new name for the National Governing Body) has been able to provide all of the Premier Division sides the opportunity to compete on the same floor that will be used at the National Indoor Hockey Championships (NIHC), Trent FM Arena Nottingham, on 30-31 January 2010.

Reigning Men’s NIHC champions East Grinstead have appeared in all of the past four finals, bringing home the trophy twice.  Having won the Premier Division title the past three seasons, the indoor pedigree of the EHB’s ‘Club of the Year 2009’ speaks for itself.  Reading regained their indoor form last season by reaching the final after missing out on NIHC qualification in 2007-08.  It proved to be a heartbreaking experience in which a desperate gamble to claw back a goal by bringing on a kicking back failed to pay off, instead putting the game beyond doubt.  The Berkshire side, rich in form outdoors, will be a serious threat this season.

Indoor EHL Men's Premier Division Beeston v Harleston MagpiesOld Loughtonians qualified through to the NIHC in the previous two seasons and are quietly developing into a consistent side capable of challenging for the title aided by their strong and vocal support.  Loughborough Students have a flair for the big occasion and the 2007-08 NIHC winners will again be in with a sound chance of qualifying in the top four of the Premier Division.  They have been leaving it late to qualify in recent seasons, but that experience will bode well in a tough division.  Beeston, possessors of a talented squad with ambition, has been unable to develop into a NIHC qualifying side in recent season, despite being well placed to do so.  Will 2009-10 be their breakout season?

Havant have gone through many changes since last season, including relegation from the Premier Division outdoors, the strength of their indoor side is yet to be seen, but as they develop outdoors, they may well look to consolidate indoors by aiming for a safe season.  Harleston Magpies, in contrast, competed in the Premier Division – staying up on goal difference – despite not competing in the outdoor EHL and qualifying as runners-up.  Their promotion outdoors into the EHL, and solid performances, will buoy their hopes of maintaining their Premier Division status more comfortably this season.  St. Albans will draw inspiration from the feats of Harleston Magpies as a team playing outdoors outside of the EHL and qualifying as runners-up.  Surbiton, coached this season by Richard Alexander, were runaway winners of Division One last season; they will be hopeful of challenging for a NIHC spot despite their recent promotion with a squad more than capable of doing so.


Bowdon Hightown player Sam Quek takes on the Aldridge goalkeeper at Whitgift School in the Indoor EHL Women's Premier Division, 14 December 2008Bowdon Hightown broke the Slough spell last season by winning the Women’s NIHC title for the first time since 1995, despite finishing fourth in the Women’s Premier Division.  Their outdoor form this season, however, has not matched their stunning form from last season so they will face a tough task in retaining their title.  Slough will certainly be looking to avenge that final defeat; they have an unprecedented 13 indoor titles to their credit and can be assured to push hard for a 14th.  Canterbury lost out to Bowdon Hightown in a tight semi-final at the NIA, having been surprising Premier Division victors, on goal difference over Slough and Olton & WW.  Despite qualifying for the second time to the NIHC, and losing out on the Premier Division title on goal difference, Olton struggled against Slough in their semi-final.  They will be looking to build on their development to mount a challenge on the title and the NIHC crown.

Chelmsford, winners of the Premier Division and NIHC in 2006, finished fifth last season, just a point behind eventual NIHC winners Bowdon Hightown, illustrating the narrow margin for error in the indoor game.  Although they were relegated from the Premier Division outdoors last season, they have a strong pedigree indoor and should challenge the top four.  Ipswich, also relegated from the Premier Division outdoors, will have been disappointed to have missed out on the NIHC last season; another team with a good indoor tradition that should prove a challenge in any game.  Clifton complete the complement of teams from last season’s Premier Division, they finished comfortably above the drop last season in seventh, but with a strong side in Leicester coming up from Division One may find a challenging campaign ahead.

Leicester, strong performers outdoor this season, step up from Division One, and with the strength of players the club possess will become instant challengers for a top four spot. The final side involved this season is Trojans, promoted alongside Leicester last season.  Trojans have a strong tradition at junior level in the indoor game and will be looking to use that development over the years for a successful campaign in the Premier Division this season.

It’s a busy season indoors, with six divisions in action over December and January from Premier Division through to Division Two, involving 60 teams. The regional qualifiers in December will provide qualifiers directly through to Division Two North and South on 9-10 January.

The 2009-10 is the first season with schools and clubs competing in separate under 16 and under 18 competitions. That means juniors play over two weekends across the country to compete for a place in their respective finals at the Trent FM Arena.

Full details of all of the venues for each Division are listed below.

Venues & Dates for Indoor England Hockey League and Junior Competitions 2009-2010

Event Date Venue
Men’s Indoor EHL Premier Division  Sat 12 - Sun 13 Dec Fleming Park, Eastleigh
Women’s Indoor EHL Premier Division Sat 12 - Sun 13 Dec Fleming Park, Eastleigh
Men’s Indoor EHL Premier Division Sat 9 - Sun 10 Jan Fleming Park, Eastleigh
Women’s Indoor EHL Premier Division Sat 9 - Sun 10 Jan Fleming Park, Eastleigh
Men’s Indoor EHL Division 2 North Sat 9 - Sun 10 Jan Ponds Forge, Sheffield
Women’s Indoor EHL Division 2 North Sat 9 - Sun 10 Jan Perdiswell, Worcester
Men’s Indoor EHL Division 2 South Sat 9 - Sun 10 Jan UWE, Bristol
Women’s Indoor EHL Division 2 South Sat 9 - Sun 10 Jan Whtigift School , Croydon
Men’s Indoor EHL Division 1 Sat 16 - Sun 17 Jan UWE, Bristol
Women’s Indoor EHL Division 1 Sat 16 - Sun 17 Jan Whitgift School , Croydon
Boys' U16 Schools  Sat 16 - Sun 17 Jan Fleming Park, Eastleigh
Boys' U18 Schools  Sat 16 - Sun 17 Jan Fleming Park, Eastleigh
Girls' U16 Schools  Sat 16 - Sun 17 Jan Cocks Moor Woods, Birm'ham
Girls' U18 Schools  Sat 16 - Sun 17 Jan Ponds Forge, Sheffield
Men’s Indoor EHL Division 1 Sat 23 - Sun 24 Jan UWE, Bristol
Women’s Indoor EHL Division 1 Sat 23 - Sun 24 Jan Whitgift School , Croydon
Men’s Indoor EHL Division 2 Sat 23 - Sun 24 Jan Gemtec Arena, Hull
Women’s Indoor EHL Division 2 Sat 23 - Sun 24 Jan Lilleshall NSC, Shropshire
Boys' U16 Clubs  Sat 23 - Sun 24 Jan Fleming Park, Eastleigh
Boys' U18 Clubs  Sat 23 - Sun 24 Jan Fleming Park, Eastleigh
Girls' U16 Clubs  Sat 23 - Sun 24 Jan Cocks Moor Woods, Birm'ham
Girls' U18 Clubs  Sat 23 - Sun 24 Jan Ponds Forge, Sheffield
National Indoor Hockey Championships Sat 30 - Sun 31 Jan Trent FM, Nottingham