Easton joins Blyth on the bench for Raiders

London Raiders have announced the signing of coach Sean Easton in a move they hope will allow the club to return to former glories when they move back to Romford next year.

Former Chelmsford coach Easton will join forces on the bench with Alan Blyth and has an impressive hockey CV, having helped to develop the careers of many promising young players.

And club management are hoping to see that maintained when a new rink is opened at the Romford Leisure Development in the town centre, with a statement saying: “The operation of the Raiders over the past three seasons has been a mixture of imminent year planning and future operation.

“The team’s frustration at losing its own rink and with that the very successful junior programme has barely been compensated by the knowledge that in time both would be available again.

“With the rink completion now expected to be well under 12 months away we had to expect that becoming part of the plans for a brand new hockey club, in a new local rink, run by some of the most enthusiastic of fans and coaches, would be a tempting proposition.

“Sean Easton is to join Alan Blyth and the Raiders management for the 2017-18 season and we confidently expect that relationship running the Raiders will cement a coaching union which, with the addition of other key staff in the new Romford Leisure Development, will quickly return the Romford name to the “club team” column of the conference and GB squad lists.

“Sean is a very well-respected coach at senior level and for his work with developing players locally and at conference and national level. His significant achievements at National League and various junior age groups are very well known and would fill a very lengthy CV.

“Sean and Alan will be working together this coming summer to strengthen the team both numerically and in the methods used on and off the ice so the fans should expect regular announcements of returning players and we expect some key additions.”

But while Raiders fans can look forward to some exciting news with regards to the make-up of their squad for next season, the sport is facing an uncertain future.

It was reported this week that several English Premier League teams had been advised to apply for the National League, whose existing teams are due to meet on May 7 to set out a structure for the 2017-18 competition.

And some are unsure as to whether or not new teams, used to operating with bigger budgets, will be welcome additions or prove problematic.

The tier three National League was arguably more competitive than the top-level Elite League and tier two Premier League last season, and a Raiders statement added: “There will doubtless be lengthy debates regarding whether this will be healthy for the National League. Some will argue that the bigger travelling fan bases of the ex-EPL teams will boost the income normally expected by the NIHL teams.

Others will argue that the larger budgets of these teams, due to successfully operating at a higher level, will mean that they will dominate the player transfer market and render the majority of the games as uncompetitive processions.

“Invariably in these situations the truth tends to sit somewhere between the two extremes.

“The meeting on May 7 will no doubt see National League owners trying to protect the multi-year investment that has seen their league widely recognised as the most sustainable in the UK.

“The EIHA and ex-EPL teams however will understandably and rightly seek to ensure they continue to operate, protecting their own investments, and agree to meet any reasonable conditions National League owners feel would keep the operating structures relatively level.

“Hopefully the final outcome will not disrupt the economics that have thus far created an entertaining and competitive National League.”