Czech Extraliga managers want to close the league

Czech Extraliga managers want to close the league

10 Jan 2012 | Petr Polák

In the Czech Republic, Extraliga clubs and the sport's federation are arguing about the possible closure of the league.

 
 
 
 
The Tipsport Extraliga is the top level of competition for Czech hocey clubs and it always has been open for the promotion of new clubs. Every year, the winner of 1.liga challenges the worst Extraliga club in a best-of-seven series for an Extraliga ticket for the following season. Now, in a move that is probably influenced by fear of the economic crisis, the Extraliga’s club managers want to close the league.

The Extraliga managers are fighting against everybody. The president of the Czech Ice Hockey Federation (ČSLH), Tomáš Král, disagrees with closing the league. Czech national team head coach Alois Hadamczik too. The Czech hockey experts do as well. In an internet poll on iDnes.cz, 32,299 people answered that they don’t wish to see the league closed, while only 2,163 agree with the managers.

In light of these facts it would seem that Extraliga GMs have no chance to impose their will, but the situation is much more complicated.

All the Extraliga clubs are united in the Association of Professional Ice Hockey Clubs (APK LH). This is an institution which keeps the Extraliga running and it is partly independent of the Czech Ice Hockey Federation (ČSLH).

But even though eleven of fourteen managers have already voted for closing the competition, their quest is not coming to an end yet. The independence of the APK LH from the ČSLH is not limitless.

An agreement of absolute majority of ČSLH delegates is needed for such a critical change of the league’s format. Including not only the Extraliga GMs, the total number of delegates is 60 – in addition to the Extaliga’s votes, the GMs from 1.liga and 2.liga clubs and the representatives of the local hockey associations are included. The president of the ČSLH has a vote and each of the two vice presidents have one as well.

It is natural that the representatives of the 1.liga and, to a lesser extent, the 2.liga don’t want to eliminate their possibility for advancement to the highest league in the country. However, many of the 1.liga and 2.liga clubs are partly affiliated with the Extraliga; some clubs have financial and player-transfer agreements.

At this point, it is apparent that this is not only a sport-related matter anymore. Rather, it seems like a political one. How big will the influence of the Extraliga clubs be? And how big will the influence of 1.liga GMs be?

We will see in June, when the Czech Ice Hockey Federation's general meeting takes place.

From iDnes.cz:

Tomáš Král, president of ČSLH: "I have had a clear opinion regarding this for years. I think it is not good for Czech hockey in general. Even though  I understand the hard situation of Extraliga managers, closing the league cannot have their desired effects. Look at the Finnish SM-liiga (it was closed for five years between 2000 and 2005). The Finns did not save more money, but it destroyed the competition of clubs. Because of the closing of the SM-Liiga, a couple of the first division clubs disappeared."

Robert Záruba, TV-analyst, Czech television: "The managers want to avoid the death (of their clubs) by killing the league's credit. It is an effort for immortality. Absolute nonsense. It’s such a mess."

Petr Husička, HC Vítkovice (Extraliga): "In the current economic situation, this is our best chance. Hockey has been my job for twenty years, but I cannot remember as bad a situation as this one is. The clubs are saving costs on travelling and arenas."

Václav Bartoš, Rytíři Kladno (Extraliga): "I don’t agree that the closure of the league will decrease its value. We need to empower the teams with our youths. Closing will help us with this process."

Robert Kysela, Slovan Ústí nad Labem (1.liga): "It would be a step backward. Czech hockey in general would be threatened. The hockey federation should not permit the interests of lobbyists against the quality of the game."
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