Austrian 2nd League collapses

Austrian 2nd League collapses

29 Jun 2012 | Wolfgang Höchtl
 

Austrian clubs are more interested in playing in regional leagues than organizing a national league. Also, the project of a joint league with Slovenian clubs failed.

 
 
 
 
The project of the joint Austrian-Slovenian league to replace the dwindling second-tier Nationalliga in Austria (and the former Slohokej league in Slovenia) is dead and so is the concept of the OEHV run Austrian Nationalliga as a whole.

Today the newspaper Vorarlberger Nachrichten is reporting that the two remaining clubs from Vorarlberg, EHC Lustenau and VEU Feldkirch have withdrawn their commitment to play in Nationalliga resp. its successor construction next season. EK Zell am See has stated intentions in the same direction.

Some days ago the news came up that in the middle of the negotiations about the future of the tier II league that the provincial federation of Styria was pushing to unite the various tier III leagues under one umbrella. These leagues ("Eliteliga") were amateur leagues with a shorter season and less games than NL and have been run in Styria, Carinthia and Tyrol. The Styrian Eliteliga was also home to some left of the middle teams from other provinces in Eastern Austria. Lustenau and Feldkirch have now said they plan to join this new countrywide "tier 3" league construction and the other surviving NL teams will (necessarily) follow. The new league shall involve some divisionalization on geographical basis and is planned to feature about 20-25 games excluding play-offs per season. The exact format still has to be set of course.

With this development semi-professional hockey in Austria has at least for some time come to an end. After the deterioration of the traditional 2nd tier league clubs in the East (Kapfenberg's last season was just a last hurrah, Zeltweg folded two years ago) NL became a Vorarlberg focused west league with just one insulated club in the East (ATSE Graz) which deprived of all local rivalries could not sustain operations. Now with Dornbirn and Innsbruck leaving for EBEL the collapse could only have been avoided with an international solution which was apparently not appealing enough to the clubs. Intra-Austrian solutions like putting the EBEL farm teams into the league as last season were futile from the start as the farm teams were not competitive and would not have drawn in the traditional NL towns even if they would have been on par.

The plan to consolidate the remains of NL without the rather stable leagues of the previous tier II is a natural fall-back but the spread of the clubs in terms of potential in all aspects (infrastructure, junior department, fan base, etc.) is enormous and for me it is absolutely not clear how it shall work that e.g. Lustenau and Feldkirch shall fit into a league with a club like Eisenstadt from the hockey no man's land province of Burgenland without the small ones getting crushed and/or the big ones adapting downwards (with all negative consequences for the junior departments as well). Organizationally the makers of this new league will have to come up with a very clever solution of finding at least roughly equal divisions but still remaining the one country wide league approach they have apparently settled on.

Austria has the problem that on the second level there's too few clubs to sustain a semi-pro league of its own but in the same time geography and the overall financial limitations make an eastward international cooperation as in EBEL not feasible. That's the real problem which will not be solved with the new construction I'm afraid.

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