It was a moment of sheer elation for the East Grinstead women’s team when they qualified for the EuroHockey Club Trophy to be held in Boom, Belgium.
It is the ambition of every player in the top flight of the England Hockey League to compete against some of the best club sides in Europe and, by finishing in second place in the domestic league in the 2019-20 season, East Grinstead were EuroHockey-bound.
The event was due to take place over the Easter 2021 period but, at the beginning of February, the announcement came from the European Hockey Federation (EHF) that the tournament was to be postponed until autumn, due to the on-going restrictions of the global pandemic.
The postponement was extended to most competitions organised by the EHF this springtime. The EuroHockey Trophy 1 Men; EuroHockey Club Trophy II, Men; and EuroHockey Club Challenge I, Women; have all been postponed to September or October, with the U14 EuroHockey League for both boys and girls has been cancelled entirely.
Mary Booth is Head Coach of East Grinstead, and she said: “We were not surprised by the decision to postpone until September/October. There are implications for us, most obviously around personnel. For example, the Great Britain players may well be resting if the Tokyo Olympic Games go ahead.
“It is also the case that players may move on, new players may join so we will have to begin preparations early while accepting that our squad may well be different to how it looks currently when it comes to September. It will be a challenge but it will probably be the same for everyone.”
Looking on the positive side, Booth adds that the fact that East Grinstead is a relatively small squad and has four Great Britain players in its ranks – who may all be rested after the Olympics – means younger members of the squad could get the invaluable opportunity to experience European club hockey, which will be great for their personal development, as well as for the team as a whole.
Booth says the squad will try to get game play over the summer months and the club is already in discussions with other clubs to see how that could work.
EHF President, Marijke Fleuren, explained that the safety of all participants, volunteers and fans was at the heart of the decision. in a brighter vein, she added: “However, as 2021 goes on we are still hopeful to deliver, along with our hosts, as many EuroHockey events as possible.
“As you can see, we have had to make the decision to move our four tournaments planned for Easter to the early part of next season. We understand this may not be ideal but are sure you recognise the challenges the pandemic has thrown us. Our goal is to provide a meaningful competition calendar and we will continue to engage with Clubs and hosts to ensure this happens as best we can.”
When the tournament is able to go ahead, East Grinstead will be competing in Pool B, facing Gantoise HC from Belgium, GHC Ritm Grodno of Belarus and local favourites Braxgata HC of Belgium. The other pool comprises Spanish club SPV Complutense, Aks Bars-Dinamo of Russia , Lille MHC from France and Irish club Loreto.
England Hockey will continue to provide regular and timely updates on dates and arrangements for the EHF Club competitions.