Mixed response from clubs to EPL import rise

The announcement by the EPL that teams will be allowed to ice five imports next season has caused plenty of discussion around the league.

Reaction from the clubs has been mixed, with some fully supporting the move while others have questioned the wisdom in upping the import quota.

Despite teams still needing to ensure that three UK-trained players are on the ice at all times, Swindon Wildcats’ Player/Coach Aaron Nell (above) expressed his doubts about the new rule.

“I think it is maybe what is needed but it’s obviously not right – it would be better if it was four imports,” said Nell.

“Having five will help the teams at the bottom end of the league because there aren’t many British players out there right now, so it will help them and hopefully it can make the league a little bit more entertaining and better to watch.

“It makes it a little bit easier recruitment wise but, again, I don’t think it is the right way to go as a league.

“A lot of players left the league this year but we have to start using the young players a lot more.”

MK Lightning boss Pete Russell said that while British player development is vital to the future of the game, he could see both sides of the argument with regards to teams having an extra import.

“It’s down to the coaches to commit to signing British players, then working hard to improve them every day on and off the ice,” said Russell.

“To be honest I would love to see all clubs extending their benches, giving their younger GB players the chance to improve and gain valuable experience.

“We have eight players in our group at Milton Keynes who are 21 or younger – and it’s down to me to make sure they play an important role in this team.

“I’m passionate about junior development – they are the future of our sport and I hope that other coaches in the league feel the same way as me and want to help make a difference.”

Sheffield Steeldogs’ co-owner Robin Grayson thinks the new rule will help smaller clubs put up more of a fight against the league’s big boys.

“As a team we are firmly committed to developing young British players and we feel that with the import level raised to five it will allow us to do this better whilst also maintaining a competitive on-ice product for our fans,” said Grayson.

“Greg (Wood) was aware that this was likely to be the way the league went and has been working on recruiting a Steeldogs squad including five imports.

“We are pleased with how the team is shaping up and are confident that our fans will have another entertaining season ahead when Greg leads the boys out in September.”

Planet Ice’s John Neville, whose company owns both Lightning and Basingstoke Bison, expressed reservations about the move saying it could have a big impact on opportunities for British players.

“After much coercing from some clubs following struggles with recruitment and having seen further proposals that would have been beneficial to all being rejected, we all find ourselves having to find space for an additional player, whilst potentially holding back the development of young British players,” said Neville.

“The quality on show in an extremely competitive EPL last season was something to behold – there was some great British talent developed supported by quality import players.

“I hope next season we will be able to get the blend right once again for fans across the country.”

(Image permission: Nicky Pearce)

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