Further to the announcements earlier from Planet Ice rinks, Raiders management would like to share a co-ordinated update on planning progress for the season ahead.
As part of our planning we have been working closely with the other NIHL National teams and have together agreed to set a target start date for the NIHL National league action of 1st January 2021. In the lead up to that date, we are all evaluating the possibilities of playing hockey matches during late November and through December with a series of challenge games and a pre-season cup competition and we’ll come back to you when we have more details.
Having these dates in the diary gives the opportunity for teams to start to put in place the arrangements needed to safely and effectively return to play. It is important to note that these are planning dates, and are subject to a number of points being resolved before teams can take to the ice. For example:
- It is highly likely that social distancing rules will still be in place and that this may restrict attendances. Whether this is a fixed number (e.g. 800) or a percentage of a venue’s capacity, (e.g. 40%) is still to be determined (as is required protective clothing / face covers) and will be led by local and national Government guidelines, the findings from various non-Ice Hockey test events taking place and EIHA policy. The level at which attendance is restricted will be critical as to whether it is financially viable for teams to compete.
- Some arenas are still without ice and venues would need to be operational for fixtures to take place so we are dependent on plans to re-lay ice in those venues.
- We will be consistently adopting across all NIHL venues and fixtures a defined set of COVID protocols around access and exit, locker room provision, cleanliness etc. These processes need to be finalised, agreed and rolled out. This work has now started.
- A flexible fixtures model needs to be developed to accommodate as simply as possible any fixture changes (e.g. through local lockdown), or changes to the overall season structure. This work has now started.
- The EIHA’s return to ice programme needs to have reached Level 5 for the season to begin, and at least level 4 for pre-season activities to take place.
The agreement of a planned regular season start date and the intent to run a pre-season cup competition is a very positive step in the journey of the return to live action in the UK of the game we all love. Although there are a number of hurdles to overcome, we are committed to working together with the other NIHL National teams, to do whatever we can to overcome these obstacles.
The owners group will be meeting again later in September to progress these plans further and we will share updates as clearly as possible as plans develop. These meetings should allow us to attempt to keep up with the latest changes to distancing rules as we all know how fluid these are!
A huge number of you have already committed your support through season ticket bookings and shirt sponsorship commitments and we want to thank you again for this vital and impressive support. Even small items like the Raiders face covers help in the quest to keep us solvent.
The off season is not without expense so keep an eye out for some fund raising exercises to help get us back on ice.