New National National League Forward Thinking or De Ja Vue?
It looks as though a new second tier will be in place for next season with 8 teams looking as favourites to be involved. Full details are still to come but we are told will be released shortly to allow teams to plan for next season.
It is thought Hull Pirates, Sheffield Steeldogs, Telford Tigers, Peterborough Phantoms, Bracknell Bees, Basingstoke Bison, Swindon Wildcats and London Raiders will make up the new tier. Other than that not a lot is known. It is clear that something needs to be done from a competitive view point with the former Premier League teams now playing in NIHL 1 being dominant over the existing NIHL teams and perhaps playing a part in the woes of the Milton Keynes Thunder and Invicta Dynamos that have had financial problems and been on the brink this season.
It is not clear how the new league will work. If it is a straight league with a cup to make up the difference in fixtures then what is the difference between this and the old EPL that collapsed?
Well the import level may be different. It could be 2 imports as the current NIHL standard although it could be more. This though is not enough to make it stand out from the EPL and avoid the same mistakes that were made.
It is telling that the teams looking to be involved are the old EPL teams. London, Bracknell and Telford have all had financial problems during their time in the EPL so it will be interesting to see what comes from these teams to avoid the same mistakes happening again.
Perhaps there will be promotion and relegation with the NIHL. However the current experience with the NIHL seems to be that this is an option rather than mandatory with teams opting to stay in the comfort of the lower league than chance their arm at the next tier.
Perhaps there could be something more radical with a split season similar to the former Super League rugby structure. Half the season could be played as North and South with the top 4 in each combining to play the rest of the season as a league.
Whilst there does need to be something done to keep the league competitive, provide a pathway for youth with a smaller step to the EIHL and most importantly keep fans interested. It is after all the fans that keep the sport going. If the NIHL is not careful we end up with a EPL mark two and make the same mistakes again. We await further developments but is it telling that one name not being mentioned with this is the Murrayfield Racers who seemed to be very keen to enter the NIHL last summer when the EIHL rejected their application.