Hockey: New format for National League upsets clubs

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AS THE full National League programme gets under way this weekend, there is gathering momentum to the opposition to the sweeping changes to the National League which should be effective from the 2004-05 season, but which will have a significant effect on this season's programme as far as promotion and relegation is concerned. .

The proposals - strongly opposed by the National League Committee and the majority of National League clubs - mean there will be a Premier League and two National Regional Leagues each consisting of 12 teams. Each league will split after the first round of matches, to be completed by Christmas.

After Christmas the top six teams in the Premier League will split and play each other twice, the bottom six doing likewise. The two National Regional Leagues would similarly split into National One and Two but only play each other once. The winners of the five Regional Leagues would each be promoted to the National League.

The majority of clubs are against regionalisation and losing five teams out of the League in one season. The Bradford manager, Bev Barstow, said: "I do not feel the National League Committee has been allowed to play an adequate role in the decision and consultation process."

A rare thumbs-up came from the Beeston manager, Graham Griffiths: "We are delighted with the new proposals as we believe they will increase competition throughout the league."