European hockey alliance formed to protect top clubs and players

Some of Europe’s top hockey clubs from five nations have joined forces to form an international alliance to protect its continental domestic league structure, the Euro Hockey League and the 11 v 11 traditional format.

The European Association of Hockey Clubs (EHCO) was unveiled on Friday with clubs initially signed up from Belgium, Holland, Germany, Spain and Austria. So far, English clubs have not joined the table.

The EHCO said that with these top Euro nation clubs signed up, the association will be able to represent and have direct influence on world and European hockey’s future agenda, which would also protect player welfare.

“Due to the increasing number of national team matches, culminated by the FIH Pro League founded two years ago, national competitions have suffered in quantity and quality,” an EHCO statement read. “The increasing number of international matches and the necessary preparation time for national teams have affected European clubs very negatively.

“Excessive inefficient international competition devalues the European leagues and causes a negative effect at all levels and in all clubs: fans, sports structures, sponsors.”

The Hockey Paper first reported last year that top Euro nations were set to launch an association after fears over the Pro League’s six-month scheduling was impacting on players being available for clubs, while there was also the need for a streamlined calendar to protect the prestigious EHL.

The EHCO has now proposed to agree where European leagues can have a clear slot from Sep 1 to mid-December and from March 1 to the beginning of June to safeguard top domestic competition.

The EHCO noted Spain as an example following the reduction of the national league to just over four months with the need to incorporate double headers in the national competition and reducing the calendar.

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“In Germany, a new example, the majority of German clubs have started to limit the presence of their players in the national team and have reached an agreement for the German Club Association to organize and manage the Bundesliga,” the statement added.

The EHCO was founded by Spaniard Leandro Martínez Zurita.

Zurita told THP that talks had been held with Surbiton and informal talks with Wimbledon to join the association.

He said: “In the end I believe after some talks with England Hockey they all decided not to take part. However the doors of EHCO will always be open for any English club willing to join us.”

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