Freddie Black – A structure for British Hockey

Freddie Black is the youngest son of Nottingham Panthers & Braehead Clan owner Neil Black. In this exclusive article for The Cat’s Whiskers, Freddie outlines his vision of a structure for British Hockey

Following on from the changing of the Elite league structure for the 2012/13 season I thought it would be interesting to present a different idea which I came up with earlier this season following the financial struggles of both Cardiff and Coventry. There is no debating that there are clear divides in the Elite League and this is not good for anyone as no one wants to watch thrashing’s continuously during the season, year after year, and I believe that in the current structure there is not really a solution to this problem, so a complete re-haul of the whole system is needed. I was originally going to send this idea to The Cat’s Whisker’s in 2011 but due to the sensitivity of the subject at the time I decided to leave it, but seeing as the league structure is going to be discussed quite a lot over the next few weeks I thought it wouldn’t be a bad time to throw this idea out there. The idea does involve the EPL teams and I know their league is doing well and I am generally happy for them, but I do think this new idea offers a lot of new and exciting options for them to grow more than they could in their current setup. So here it is:

The British Hockey League

Northern Championship (wage cap between £4,000 – £5,000 net)

Sheffield Steeldogs

British Championship (wage cap between £6,500 – £7,500 net)


Southern Championship (wage cap between £4,000 – £5,000 net)

Milton Keynes

The Format and Guidelines of the New league

*Each Team plays every team in their own Championship 3 times home and away (30 games)
*Each Team plays every other team from the other championships 1 time home and away (24 games)
*Total season of 54 games
*There is a league winner in every championship
*Top 4 from each championship qualify for the playoffs, 1st vs. 4th, 2nd vs. 3rd and winners of the Northern and Southern Championship playoffs go through to the British Ice Hockey playoff weekend where they will face each other in a semi-final with the other semi-final being made up of the two playoff finalists of the British Championship (also played at the playoff weekend). The winners of both semi-finals face off against each other for the BHL Playoff title.
* A knockout cup competition to be held between all the teams with a final being held in a neutral location (ENL teams will also be involved although at an earlier stage in the draw)
*A new Governing Body set-up which includes no one from the current set-up and a new disciplinary board created and to be made up of ex professional players and referees
*This Governing Body will have no one in it involved in any of the teams and it will check on every team to see what they are spending and make sure no dodgy business practices are happening. It will also interview and investigate any prospective owner to make sure they are ‘fit and proper’
*Serious points deduction for breaking the wage cap and if any team phoenixes its operating company it will have face punishments which could include deduction of points or fines etc.

Positives of this system

Variety – Something I believe BIH desperately needs and in this system each team will face 17 different clubs every season!
Derby matches – With the teams having their rivals in their championship this will increase spectator numbers
Competitiveness – The teams are matched in most cases with similar size clubs and with a strict wage cap every team should be able compete within their championship and the others. The British Championship teams will obviously be favourites against the other teams but they will only be playing them once home and away and that will be a big draw for the teams e.g. Hull vs. Nottingham or Manchester vs. Sheffield
Spectator Numbers – I believe clubs such as Bracknell could attract very good crowds when it is known they will be playing against Sheffield, Belfast, Nottingham etc once again and as mentioned before the variety will mean that fans won’t get fed up of watching the same team over and over again which should make for more interesting competition
Silverware – the fact that there are 3 different league titles up for grabs should increase chances of silverware for all clubs and create more local publicity plus potentially higher crowds as that is what success creates.
Sponsorship – Lots of opportunities for sponsorship (Whole league, 3 championships, playoffs and cup competition)
Governing Body – One that will act in the interests of the whole of BIH and not just a few teams with powerful owners

Negatives of this system

Travel – Undoubtedly very costly, especially for the smaller teams to places such as Belfast but for teams like Coventry and Cardiff they will only have to travel to Scotland 7 times instead of the current 12
EPL Teams – 2 teams will have to drop down a level for this to work
Confusion – People may find the new system too confusing and it could create disillusionment
Affordable – There will undoubtedly be problems about whether certain clubs could afford to compete in these leagues but I believe there are ways to combat this
British Players – Some players from the EPL may be unable to commit to a league with this schedule although actually there are only 4 arena teams so they really shouldn’t be too many mid-week games for the majority of the teams
Investment – I believe in the first couple of years a few teams will need investment (mainly Steeldogs, Bracknell, Swindon etc.) to increase crowds, market teams better and pay for travel but I believe this money could be raised by the governing body at events such as the Playoff final weekend which would have fans from all the British Hockey league teams and ENL teams thus I believe an arena such as the MEN could be used and almost sold out (ticket prices £20-£30)for this weekend event creating huge amounts of revenue

Imports in this new structure

I have not put an import limit in the structure for a reason and this is because I am still undecided on whether there should be one and if there was one, what the limit should be. I will let people figure this out for themselves but personally if I was forced to give an answer I would probably say that if there is an enforced wage cap then there wouldn’t be a need for import limits but still I can see the arguments for the other side

P.S: Don’t want to go into too much detail about Junior Development as I would be writing for days but it would be a must for all clubs to have junior sections and also a lot of the governing bodies money would be spent on bringing over coaches to develop British juniors and setting up clinics to get more people interested in playing the game


I must admit that there may be better alternative clubs to put into the championships e.g. Peterborough instead of Swindon but I was just basing it on crowds, finances and a potential for growth.

As for Coventry and Cardiff I believe they both have a place in the British Championship for numerous reasons. Firstly I believe both clubs would have a great chance of silverware in their championship if the wage cap is properly enforced which it most definitely would be by an independent governing body. Also the teams they would be playing most of the time would be the teams that they get good crowds for. For Cardiff as well with the new arena hopefully on the horizon this is championship that they belong in and I’m sure they would flourish.

Why some of these changes can’t happen without having to change the whole structure?

*Owners currently have too much control
*There is too much difference in revenue in the EIHL and I do not believe there is anything the league can do which will create more parity while not putting clubs out of business (e.g. a wage cap that suits Edinburgh and Nottingham)
*Politics between owners and I believe an overhaul of the whole structure would have to happen for clubs and leagues to start working together

Just to add as well a whole new top level English national league may have to be set up as well under the same governing body:

English National League (2 imports max and wage cap of £1,500 net)


*Each team plays each other 2 times home and away
*Challenge cup which is to be competed as current EIHL one is today (may not be able to fit this in though)
*Top 8 qualify for playoffs, 1st vs. 8th, 2nd vs. 7th etc. with final being played at the British Ice Hockey playoffs finals
*Teams to enter first stage of BIH knockout cup

Positives and Negatives of this system

Should be competitive and these clubs will have a lot of good British Juniors coming through the ranks and I believe every club in the top 3 championships would be desperate for some sort of affiliation with these clubs. Negatives would be that travel may cost too much especially to Wightlink and clubs in general may not be able to afford it but I think the competitiveness of the league would help with crowds.

*Won’t go into too much detail but all the remaining clubs like Bristol, Solihull etc. would form their own leagues with regional conferences and teams in the top leagues would have their farm teams in this league (Cardiff ENL, Coventry ENL etc.)

The Nottingham Panthers and our options

I would say the club are very keen to remain in the EIHL and improve the league. I must also mention that the club is keeping an eye on any developments in Europe which may lead to an opportunity for the club and we have been in contact with a few leagues of notably higher stature and we have received invitations to play in certain leagues although they have not been possible to accept. It must also be said though that the possibility of actually joining a European League is extremely remote and for that reason the club must concentrate on the British Leagues.

Anyway this is just a rough idea thrown out there but I would be interested what people thought of the idea and if they think it is an improvement on the current setup.

So there we have young Freddie’s proposal’s. Do you agree? Please leave constructive comments in the comments box below or join in the discussion on the dedicated thread for this article on The Cage Forum.


9 Responses to “Freddie Black – A structure for British Hockey”

  1. 1 Eric May 31, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    Not sure how the wage cap would work. Can someone explain – with examples?

    • 2 Phil Cooper May 31, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      There is no wage cap at present, but there seems to be a “gentlemans agreement” – sometimes broken (dont need to add to that). Wage caps work until one team (wonder who) finds a way round it or break it regardless of penalties to local businesses for bragging rights. The upper limits for the wage cap would most think be below what is paid at present.
      There is a lot of thought been put into this. Personally I would like a lot more thought put into the devlopment of young players, which is brushed over. I think also new ideas on the promotion of the game are needed.
      Yes a new governing body is needed – would be difficult with the owners difficult to dictate to. I am not seure where you would get the people, when the governing body at present for British ice hockey made such a mess of the recent GB team set up.

  2. 3 Path May 31, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    well everyone would try and stick to it to ensure fair play having to cut their cloth accordingly and then someone (*cough* sheffield *cough*) would start paying all their brits to “work for the team sponsors” and eventually just break the wage cap and lose the receipts….

  3. 4 peacock May 31, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    I don’t know exactly how the wage cap works in Rugby League, but it certainly seems to. There’s no reason why it couldn’t work in Hockey.

  4. 5 alex west May 31, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    i have only recently become a big fan of ice hockey in the last two years. i think the structure for the up coming season is a good one and hopefully help see the small teams have more of a chance. i also think this structure here is a good one. it would be nice to see some other teams play than just the same old teams but then again the really small teams might not have a chance against the big teams. i think british ice hockey should take small steps towards a new (maybe better) structure. like i said i would nice to see more teams in the eihl. i would like to see the fans have a say into the way the structure is set out. the many things to take in to account before a massive change happens. i think testing some these ideas out first out is the best way.

  5. 6 Brummie-panther June 1, 2012 at 2:46 am

    Master black I have to say this makes perfect sense to me.

    Teams play in conferences they can compete in. The same level, but still have two games with the bigger teams, raising much needed cash. It also gives the smaller clubs a better chance of reaching play off. (look at hull and their fans last season they were fantastic)

    The teams in the lower divisions ie Solihull etc, agreements can be made between the clubs to have them as feeder clubs, players could drop down or be called up when needed. Duel advertisement could raise awareness In Two different locations.

    I’m a great believer that the game needs to be better advertised and have better Tv coverage, I believe the game has huge potential to grow, but it needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Maybe moving to a new channel that has a sporting gap to fill, top of my head Channel 5 have just lost e football.

    Development of junior players should be the responsibility of all clubs as Master Black states.

    In regards to transport costs, surely when doing the fixtures they can look at it and try to get double headers as much as possible as this would reduce the teams travel costs as ll as the fans who will travel.

    That’s my two pence worse I apologise for any typos misspelling or grammar it’s very early


  6. 7 Path June 1, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Can’t we go to a 2 league system with promotion and relegation. Have an all inclusive knockout cup played early in the season and then finish with a finals weekend for the top 4 clubs and hold it at a neutral venue – say wembley…

    hold on a sec…..

    the circle is complete….

    • 8 PROFESSOR WINK WILSON June 24, 2012 at 6:22 pm

      HI BRITISH HOCKEY FANS!-after returning to the EIHL this year, as a former player(WAY BACK)I get a chuckle out of the league operations ie:

  7. 9 PROFESSOR WINK WILSON June 24, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    CONTACT ME ON SKYPE-wink wilson & let’s set up a 4 part discussion on this(right away)

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