With the Investec Women’s Hockey League set to be restructured for the 2019-20 season due to the introduction of the FIH Pro League, the door has been opened for club second teams to compete in the IWHL, although only at Conference level (the third tier).
As Surbiton Ladies 2 are the reigning champions of the South Clubs’ Women’s Hockey League Division One, they are one of the contenders for promotion to the national league.
In the past, second teams have been prohibited from being promoted from regional leagues to the national league, meaning that once they reached the top regional division, even if they finished top, there was no prospect of promotion to a higher league.
Since L2 first played in the top South division in 2015-16, they have won the league twice and finished second once. The University of Birmingham’s second team did the same over the last three seasons in the Midlands league.
The IWHL will be restructured to have a Premier Division; Division One North and Division One South; and three Conferences. From L2’s point of view, the key is that the top four teams in the five regional leagues will be promoted to the national league to allow both Division One North and South to be added to the structure. There will be no relegation from the Conferences and if a team chooses not to be promoted from a regional league, that league can nominate the next highest team for promotion.
Therefore if L2 finish in the top four of the South Clubs’ Women’s Hockey League Division One in 2018-19, they can be promoted to play in one of the IWHL Conferences in 2019-20.
Although there is a long way to go to the end of the season, L2 boosted their chances of promotion, beating second placed Tulse Hill & Dulwich 6-0 at Sugden Road last Saturday afternoon (20 October).
Fran Rowley opened the scoring in the tenth minute, with Steph Beaumont doubling the lead three minutes later. L2 led 3-0 at half time, Tali Gibbons scoring the first of two goals in the 23rd minute.
L2 captain Hannah Denison added her team’s fourth and fifth goals in the 50th and 60th minutes respectively, with Gibbons scoring the last goal with eight minutes to play.
Tulse Hill dropped down to sixth as L2 opened up a three point lead over Wimbledon Ladies 1A. Witney, currently third, have a big weekend as they host L2 in Oxfordshire on Saturday (27 October) (push back 12.30) and then visit Oxford University on Sunday for a game rearranged from the opening day of the season due to a league rule relating to University teams.
Looking forward to the possibility of L2 playing at national level, Denison said “It’s a welcome and refreshing challenge that we have the opportunity for promotion this year due to the changes made to the league structures.” Previously, winning the league for a second team seemed of not as high importance, as even though we were league champions last season we were denied promotion due to our first team already being part of the national league. As a team we feel that this change has motivated us to play even better this season with the goal of promotion in our sights, and I feel that as a talented bunch of young players that we will be able to fulfil this goal and compete at that level.”