England Hockey will host the first ever international hockey tournament in Durham next summer as the Women’s EuroHockey Qualifiers are set to take place at Maiden Castle Sports Centre.

The tournament will be contested in from 22-27 August 2022 and act as one of four qualification events for the Women’s EuroHockey Championships taking place the following summer.

England’s women will be the top ranked outfit going into the event aiming to secure the ultimate prize of qualifying for the 2023 EuroHockey Championships, which will be held in Germany.

There will be a Home Nations clash at the event as Wales have also been drawn in the group having narrowly missed out on reaching the 2022 Women’s Hockey World Cup last month. They will be joined by Russia, Croatia and Slovakia.

England Hockey Chief Executive Nick Pink said: “I am absolutely delighted that this event will be hosted in Durham.

“We are delighted to be taking international hockey to as many parts of the country as possible and I am hoping that, by taking our very successful female players to the north-east of England, it will inspire even more people to watch them in action or pick up a stick.

“While we have a fantastic home at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London – where we will be hosting the FIH Hockey Pro League next May and June – it is great for the sport that international hockey will be taking place around the country next year, with Birmingham hosting the Commonwealth Games, the Masters World Cup taking place in Nottingham and now Durham hosting this event. I am certain all of those venues and their wider communities will get behind each event and we can all look forward to a great year of hockey.

“On the pitch, this event in Durham is very important to give England’s women the chance to qualify for the EuroHockey Championships, so there are many reasons to be excited about what lies ahead and we look forward to seeing fans in the north-east turn out to support England and those teams taking part.”

England and GB international Tess Howard, who studied at Durham University, added: “The news that Durham will our venue for the 2023 Euros qualification event is fantastic. As a Durham University student, it would be very special to play international hockey back at Maiden Castle; I have such fond memories of my time there ‘defending the Castle’ as we said.

“Having it staged in the north-east of England would be massive for the local clubs too who rarely get international hockey there but give incredible support to our team. I’m super excited about the prospect of playing in those matches, giving back to Durham for all they’ve done for me and showcasing our brilliant sport in the region.”

Durham University’s Head of Sport Mark Brian commented: “We are absolutely thrilled to be bringing a major sporting event to the north-east of England and Durham University. Hockey is a key performance programme at the university supported by our outstanding facilities and we hope to be able to create a unique and exciting environment for all the teams.”

The process of reaching the top tier of the European Championships is different this time round compared to years gone by. Previously, the top six at an event would guarantee their place at the next edition while the bottom two sides would be relegated and be replaced by the finalists from the EuroHockey Championships II. However, only the top four teams from the 2021 Europeans have guaranteed their places, with those finishing between fifth and eighth going into separate qualification groups to secure the other spots.

Those sides have been split across four separate tournaments and grouped with teams from the second, third and fourth tiers to determine the full format of the 2023 EuroHockey Championships.

Only the country that wins each qualifying tournament will reach the main European event in two summers’ time. Those that finish second and third will qualify for the second tier, sides who place fourth and fifth will enter the third tier and those who end up in sixth and seventh (if appropriate) will enter the fourth tier.

After finishing fifth this summer, England’s women will enter their competition as the highest ranked team and as such were given the opportunity to host the tournament, with Durham selected as the home of the event. England’s men finished fourth at the 2021 Euros and have therefore already booked their place at the showpiece event in Germany in 2023.

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