KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) have pushed back the start of the Malaysia Hockey League by a week. The league will now begin on June 5.
The league had initially been slated to start on May 29. But with the national team returning from Germany on May 22, the MHF have decided to wait for another week. Although the start of the league has been delayed, the closing date for registration remains as today.
The MHF have also decided on a change in format. The league will see a home-and-away format in the preliminary round with the top eight teams qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Earlier, the MHF had planned a round robin competition in the preliminary round.
MHF secretary S. Satgunam confirmed the change of format yesterday, saying teams would now have more matches to play.
“The start of the league will be on June 5. We do not expect any problems with the duration of the meet. The league will take a break on June 23 for the national players to attend training with the team for the Champions Challenge in July. The league will resume in late July.
“We hope to complete the MHL by the middle of August,'' he said.
Satgunam said the MHF would review the quarter-finals stage if there are fewer than 10 teams in the fray.
“Although we have planned for the quarter-finals, we will review the decision if there are fewer than 10 teams. We will decide this after registration closes tomorrow (today),'' he said.
Last Sunday, the MHF also decided to scrap their ruling on guest players and allowed teams to have any number of contract players. Contract players are those who are hired by the clubs on an annual basis.
The old rules limited teams to only four guest players and two foreign players but some teams had no contract players at all and had appealed for a change in the rules.
Satgunam said they are expecting at least 10 teams this year. A total of nine teams – Bumiputra Commerce, Bank Simpanan Nasional, Tenaga Nasional, Andersen Sports Club (now Ernest and Young), RMR, Navy, Jollylads, Maybank and Sapura – took part last year.
Three other teams –Johor Baru HA, Ipoh City Hall and a team from Pahang – have shown interest in joining the contest.
So far, only Sapura have signed up a foreign player, having hired South Korean Kang Jeon-wook. Ernest and Young are said to have retained India’s Len Ayappa while BSN's bid to get players from Pakistan has not borne fruit. The Pakistan HA are not releasing their players.