The Elite League have confirmed their hopes of playing a shortened mini season for 2020/21 is at an end.
The top league had applied for the £4 million ringfenced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Sport England, for which only the five English based teams would qualify.
However it appears their hopes of securing this funding, which would have been a loan, have proved to be in vain.
A statement from the Elite League read: “Yesterday, we heard the full details of the Government’s Winter Survival package for the English Elite League teams.
No EIHL season in 2020/21 | #EIHL
Full details of Winter Survival Package for English teams revealed yesterday 👇
— EIHL (@officialEIHL) February 2, 2021
“It was to begin season 2020/21 with no fans and government support only in the form of loans. To start on that basis would threaten the very future of professional ice hockey in the United Kingdom.
“We are delighted with the support that has been afforded to Belfast, Cardiff, Dundee, Fife and Glasgow by Sport Northern Ireland, Sport Wales and Sport Scotland respectively, which is focused on helping them survive this very difficult period, during which no Elite League games have been played since March 2020.
“The five English Elite League teams look forward to continuing their dialogue with Sport England to deliver a similarly positive outcome.
“The league’s focus is to ensure the successful launch of season 2021/22, currently scheduled to begin in September.”
BIH Comment: Mini season was always a pipe dream
While the news there won’t a mini-season is sad in some ways, it was a distraction the teams didn’t need as they looked to prepare for a post-Covid world.
Even if the funding had been in place, the competition would have been heavily diluted by the absence of others.
The recruitment of import players, unless it had already started, is a timely process and as time went on, you felt it was always going to be a tall order to not only get the teams together, but the safety measures in place.
As things stand, those issues are still to be sorted for a September start, but rushing it would have been at the detriment of the clubs involved and the league itself.
The biggest disappointment is the fact that players who have been idle since last March won’t get the ice time they badly crave, nor will the GB internationals likely to be involved in May’s World Championships get the action they need.
It’s tied the hands of the national coach, Pete Russell as he looks to prepare, but the bigger picture of the league is it lives to fight another day.
Guildford Flames had already opted out of any possible competition due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, leaving the four teams to continue to explore their options.
While only Sheffield Steelers had made repeated statements and interviews with a view to seeing some action take place, the long wait continues to September.
As frustrating as it is to be one of the few sports, if not the only one, to not play since the effects of the virus became hugely apparent, apart from the NIHL Streaming Series in November, the millstone of a £4 million loan, depending on the terms of repayment, is not one the club’s needed.