MHL Premier Division to begin as scheduled

KUALA LUMPUR: The Premier Division of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) will start as scheduled on Dec 4 – even if the national team qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) competitions committee, who decided this at their meeting yesterday, however, are ready to make some concessions should the national team make the cut for the 2010 Finals.

MHF competitions committee chairman Datuk Abdul Rahim Mohd Ariff said yesterday that a minimum of six teams would compete in the Premier Division.

“So there is not going to be any postponement or cancellation of the MHL this year. If the national team do not qualify for the World Cup, then we’ll go ahead as planned.

“If they make the cut, then we will have to make some adjustments to accommodate the national trainees. We want the clubs to utilise their national stars in the league,” he said.

The national team are down to compete in the qualifying tournament against hosts New Zealand, China, Scotland, Wales and Austria in Invercargill from Nov 7-15.

The winner will advance to the Finals, which will held in the last week of February in New Delhi.

If Malaysia make the grade, the players are unlikely to be released to the clubs for the MHL.

To avert any problems in the tussle for the services of the players, the MHF competitions committee have decided to call for a special meeting on Nov 20 to decide on the fate of the national players.

“This meeting will involve the team managers and also the national coaches, who will work out a deal if the team make the cut for the Finals,” said Abdul Rahim.

The MHF plan to call for entries for the Premier Division on Oct 14, with the closing date set for Oct 23.

Abdul Rahim said entries would be open to all clubs “which are properly constituted and affiliated to any of the state associations”.

“But we will evaluate the strength of the teams concerned to ensure they have the quality to play in the premier division.

“Our target is to have six teams but it may be more,” he said.

The competitions committee have also invited the Division One champions and runners-up – UiTM and Airod Armed Forces – to play in the Premier Division.

Abdul Rahim said the two teams had, however, turned down the off and would only participate in the knockout stage.

The Premier Division is likely to feature six teams. The six teams will then join the top two teams from Division One in the knockout stage.

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