Time to Scrap the EPL?
There are now more teams in the EPL with a wage bill and the ability to pay that outstrips those at the bottom. Manchester, Guildford and now Telford have Basingstoke and Milton Keynes not far behind whilst Bracknell, Peterborough and Sheffield remain well behind. Swindon is caught in a no mans land in many ways in that they are spending somewhere in the middle. With the increase in imports and high spending of teams at the top of the EPL is not time to get rid of the EPL?
Yes those behind sides in the EPL and the EIHL do not see eye to eye and there are differences to work out but events this week have shown that it could be the solution needed. The Telford Tigers this week announced 2 big signings for next season. Former Hull and Cardiff forward Jason Silverthorn joins whilst GB international and veteran defenseman Jonathon Weaver signs from the Nottingham Panthers. These signings show that import rule change in the EIHL is squeezing British talent out and into the EPL for those sides that can afford it whilst those that cannot are being squeezing further.
If the EPL were to be scrapped and those at the top of the table financially moved into the Elite League we could see a more rounded competition that even with a high import level benefits the national team. The equation is simple more teams in the EIHL means more British spots and in turn more British players playing at a higher level against imports.
There still will be a disparity between the top sides and the bottom sides but it would be competitive amongst the likes of Edinburgh, Fife and Hull with the newcomers for the playoff spots. Perhaps a salary cap could be introduced to help even out the spending abilities as well.
Those at the bottom of the EPL could join the NIHL where top sides are spending on players as they are.
The recent draft review of the EIHA that was released did not recommend this but the spending ability disparity was not addressed in that document. For instance its suggestion in the NIHL of scrapping the divisional format to be replaced with a regionalised conference structure will further enhance this disparity with development sides such as Blackburn Eagles potentially in a conference with long established sides such as Billingham or Whitley Bay.
The review also called on the EPL to be a high level development league but with seasoned professionals being snapped by Telford and Guildford already this summer it is clear there are teams wanting to spend big to be at the top.
The disparity spending potential in those at the top of leagues and those at the bottom has already caused the loss of the Slough Jets this summer. It is the biggest threat to clubs and competition that is facing the game in the UK at the moment. Scrapping the EPL may be seen as extreme but it is a fear that less than half of games maybe seen by fans as close contests before they start and that leads to lower attendances and ultimately financial problems for clubs.
It is expected that the full review will be ready by the EIHA AGM in June and it will be interesting to see if there are any more recommendations in that review and which are enacted.