The British game’s top-tier has been unable to resume action because of the coronavirus pandemic, which brought an early end to last season, coming just days after the Steelers’ won the Challenge Cup for the first time in 17 years.
Fears have been growing that the season could be cancelled altogether with current government Covid-19 guidelines and social distancing rules preventing spectators from attending games.
With no multi-million TV deal or financial backing from elsewhere, without fans, all 10 clubs are unable to play games behind closed doors, a situation which saw them initially put back the start of the season to October, before being forced to postpone it for a further two months to early December.
In recent weeks, most clubs have told players already signed up for the 2020-21 season to explore other options in either Europe or North America.
A number have already taken up that opportunity – including a number of GB internationals.
Yesterday, Dundee Stars’ confirmed Canadian forward Anthony Beauregard would be playing elsewhere during 2020-21.
Steelers’ head coach and GM Aaron Fox revealed earlier this month that he had put in calls on behalf of some of his players in an attempt to find them work elsewhere, preferably on a short-term basis.
None of the 15 players signed up by the Steelers have gone elsewhere yet, but their hand may be forced if today’s announcement by the self-governing EIHL, declares that no season is possible.
One further option owners are exploring has been an even later start date of February with the season running until the end of June, but, if that does happen, it is unlikely all 10 teams will take part, with some known to be preferring to wait for the 2021-22 campaign instead.
Earlier this month, Steelers’ owner Tony Smith, who also doubles up as EIHL chairman, said: “We announced a while ago it would be nice to start in December, it seemed a million miles away at the time but the reality is that was probably a very sensible decision.
“But on September 15 we’ll make that final call and we’ll let the fans know exactly what is happening across the league.”
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Thank you, James Mitchinson. Editor.