The English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) is pleased to announce that the England U13 team is to be reinstated for the 2016/17 season.
The decision follows a proposal presented by members at the recent EIHA Annual General Meeting and comes just months after the Junior Section meetings where a great many Clubs had expressed serious concerns that the gap being left in the EIHA’s elite player pathway was unlikely to be back-filled by IHUK’s plans to expand the GB programme at U12 and U14 levels in the short term.
England National Team Programme (ENTP) general manager, Gary Apsley, said: “The interim measures agreed by the Board have been expanded to include an Under 13 England Team and Ben (Pitchley) and I need to move quickly so that we can re-establish the U13 programme to run alongside our current U14 and U15 teams.
“We know that the Members were concerned at the apparent gaps left when the programme was changed back in January, particularly at the lower age, and with the junior elite pathways currently going through the consultation stage of IHUK’s transformation process, the EIHA needed to ensure that the needs of its members were being catered for and the announcement today does just that for the current season.”
The EIHA Board have confirmed that the current England National Team Programme will be subject to a formal review at the end of the current season with consideration being given to Ice Hockey UK’s stated proposals for unification of the sport across all levels.
Geoff Hemmerman, ENTP Director, explained: “The Association has given an undertaking to IHUK that we will engage positively with all stakeholders in a process of formally reviewing the options and possibilities for unifying the sport’s governance and competition structures.
“This includes the relationships between the current England programme and IHUK’s Great Britain teams. The re-introduction of the England U13 team should be considered to be a temporary step until such time as the unified plan is published. We have to look at the bigger picture for the good of the sport and not just the part the EIHA currently looks after.”
England Head Coach Ben Pitchely is very pleased with the Board’s decision and although he supports the plans to enhance our national game structure he wants to ensure that our junior players continue to develop while the transformation plans are established.
“If we are to prepare players for the GB teams, then we need to keep our players playing at a high level and the sooner we can expose our youngsters to the elite level competitions the sooner the players will adapt,” Pitchley said.
“I am looking forward to learning of IHUK’s plans and hope to be working closely with their development team over the coming weeks and months.”
The England National Team Programme (ENTP) now consists of four teams, U13, U14 and U15 Boys and U15 Girls.
Both Pitchley and Apsley have been charged with re-structuring the training and playing elements of the ENTP which started back in August with the first selection camp held at Ice Sheffield. Now though with the re-introduction of the U13 team, the programme will be expanded which will also provide opportunities for Coaching and Support staff.
Apsley said: “We recently advertised for Coaches and Managers to support our current programme and to be honest the response we received was far from ideal. Having said that there were a number of high quality candidates and we will be taking those applications forward to interview.
“We now need additional staff including a Head Coach and Team Manager so Association Members can look out for the adverts for these posts within the next few days. I hope to encourage a better response to our call for support from current Members.”
The England U13 selection process for players will be announced within the next 24 hours.