SHEFFIELD STEELERS: New format to benefit league, claims Tony Smith

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SHEFFIELD Steelers owner Tony Smith has welcomed the decision to change the format of the Elite League and Challenge Cup for the 2012-13 season.

The 10 Elite outfits will split into two geographic five team groups, with the Steelers joined by Belfast, Cardiff, Coventry and Nottingham. Ryan Finnerty’s men will play each team in their own conference four times at home and four away whilst only playing Braehead, Dundee, Edinburgh, Fife and Hull twice at home and twice away.

Smith said: “I think this change will make the league stronger and more competitive. Teams at the top and the bottom now have more hope and play more competitive games. Sure, for the Steelers we play the likes of Nottingham and Belfast more often and that’s good for our business but we are only strong if the other clubs in the league are strong as well and we had to look at trying to do something different that helped the likes of Hull, Fife, Edinburgh and Dundee

“They will play more games against each other and thus have a chance to win more games and play at the top of their conference rather than play at the bottom of the Elite League without any real hope of success. We feel that we have found a method of pleasing all the clubs with this change.”

The Challenge Cup will also be changed with four teams progressing through each group rather than two, meaning quarter finals will now be played, adding an extra round to the tournament.

“Now teams are all playing in a group that they can win,” declared Smith.