Leeds Hockey Club are toasting their elevation to the men’s National League – clinched 5 weeks early following their runaway exploits in the Northern Premier.
It’s a three-pronged celebration thanks to a ground-breaking partnership between a local club and two academic institutions, a coalition which they hope can now help them challenge on a national level.
Remarkably, it has all come about in only five years. The partners in this successful
enterprise, which has brought National League hockey to Leeds for the first time, are Leeds Hockey Club, Leeds University and Leeds Beckett University.
“Leeds University had a team in the Northern Premier League but they struggled to get above mid-table and for such a big city it was a shame there was no National League side,” says Carl
Smith, the Head of Hockey at Leeds University and Mens first team captain.
“We started planning to gain National League status five years ago and three years ago we merged the two universities and Leeds Hockey Club, basing ourselves at Sports Park
Weetwood. More than a million pounds have been spent on the outstanding hockey
facilities over the last three years, including a new water-based pitch last year.”
“Previously, the university teams were not able to call on experienced players and they also had no community involvement so there was no junior set-up. The merger has allowed us to field a first team which is around one-third students from Leeds Uni, one-third Leeds Beckett students and one-third local players or alumni who have stayed around the city, led by former junior international coach Lewis Butcher.”
“We are able to provide potential students to either university with a hockey output, as the likes of Nottingham, Manchester and Birmingham have been able to do for a while, and
the universities can use hockey to drive their recruitment. We’ve gone from running five men’s and three ladies’ teams three years ago to supporting eight men’s and five women’s sides now. We also have a thriving junior section with around 180 kids aged under 16 bringing success at that level."
Robbie Goldthrop - Making first team debut aged 14
The club are also chuffed to have attained England Hockey’s Big Club Status (for clubs with more than 500 members) and having achieved their first objective with the men’s side, are
now planning the same for the women.
The men won the Northern Premier League at a canter, securing promotion with five games to go. The women who finished third this year are already building and strengthening for the 2017-18 season. The success of this has been predominately created through the strong partnership between the club and Leeds Beckett University.
All the institutions have a say on the management committee and our membership is probably 50 per cent students. Our junior section is going through the roof and are now
challenging for honours on a local, Yorkshire level.”
Leeds is a major city and it now has the National League side it deserves.
The Northern Conference had better watch out.