The Elite League have officially suspended the 2020/21 season due to the ongoing situation regarding the coronavirus.
The news was confirmed in a statement on behalf of all teams following an online meeting where it was deemed that the current restrictions on having groups of people in one building wasn’t workable.
It ends the weeks of speculation surrounding the fate of the current campaign when players that had signed were encouraged or had taken up opportunities elsewhere to play.
The statement from the league read: “On Monday’s video conference call, the 10 teams unanimously agreed that they cannot commit to a 2020-21 league season starting on December 5th as previously planned and the season will be suspended.”
Speaking on behalf of all the member organisations, EIHL chairman Tony Smith said: “We’ve been very open that we need to have fans back in our arenas for us to begin playing again.
“We operate around 75% to 100% capacity at our venues and this is the level of crowds we would need in order to go ahead at any point, which isn’t a realistic option right now
“Government compliance along with the safety of our players, officials, staff and fans is paramount to this decision.
“If government guidance and support were to change, some teams may be ready to revise their plans to return to play and would need a minimum of eight weeks to prepare.
“We continue to speak with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and devolved administrations about their plans for the return of fans to arenas that would enable this to happen, but having a full EIHL season starting in 2020 with ten teams is now beyond us unfortunately.
As well the players moving on, it became clear Elite League sides had ceased their recruitment plans with the last signed players announced on August 17th.
Some clubs hadn’t even announced season ticket plans for the new campaign, which always left a doubt in the mind that a fresh season was in jeopardy.
How the clubs plan to continue is unknown at this time and each will make their stances known in due course.
Smith though remains hopeful of having some action in the New Year, but it seems the plan is at early stage.
He added: “We are looking into the possibility of some form of top level ice hockey in the UK potentially taking place in early 2021.
“This could start in late January or early February and go through into late June, but may not include all teams and again this is dependent on crowds being allowed back inside venues.”