“The league is as closed as before”

The league is as closed as before

The Ice Hockey Championship League announced in October that the road to the sport’s highest league level will be open through the qualifiers starting in spring 2025 after a long break.

The Mestis club can advance to the SM league if it wins the Mestis championship and then knocks out the team that finished last in the SM league in the qualifying series.

Strong grips in the rink are still not enough. In addition to sporting success, the conditions require money.

It is now demanded too much, thinks Tampere-based Mestis club Koovee.

– The league is as closed as before, says the chairman of the board of Koovee Hockey in Tampere Janne Virtanen.

Jokerit, who returned to the domestic puck map through Mestis, stated the same, who announced on Monday that they are not going to pursue a league place for the 2025–26 season. The reason was the costs of millions of euros for the organization arising from a possible increase.

The biggest single cost is the much-talked-about league share, the price of which is estimated at 3.8 million euros for the Helsinki club.

In Janne Virtanen’s opinion, the SM league’s communication, especially regarding the financial side of promotion to the league, has been very unclear and incomplete.

Among other things, it is precisely the price tag of the league share that surprises.

– In recent days we have heard that it (the league share) is different depending on the city, which is completely incomprehensible. From Turku, TuTo announces that 3.6 million euros. Jokers are told that 3.8 million. For the next questioner, it could already be four million, Virtanen reflects.

“Not justified in any way”

SM-liiga oy and the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation agreed in 2013 that the league qualifiers will be replaced by a license system. Since then, the Mestizo champion has been able to apply for a major league license.

When Sport, KooKoo and Jukurit entered the league in 2014–16, they each paid 1.8 million euros for the league share.

So the price has roughly doubled.

– The combined net result of the league is probably 82,000 euros with a turnover of 31–32 million euros. The license price of four million euros is not justified in any way, says Janne Virtanen.

Virtanen would like more detailed reasons for the value of the license.

– Not even Koovee can say one day that the price of a share is one euro and suddenly it is said that it is four euros and it is said that so and so much capital has been created on the balance sheet. It’s not even legal accounting.

Mr. and Hidalgo

Mestis is the highest of the league levels under the Jääkieckoliito. SM-liiga is its own limited company, which is owned by the clubs playing in the league.

In Janne Virtanen’s opinion, the league’s license system should be dismantled. That can only be done by the shareholders of SM-liiga oy, he states.

– The ice hockey association should be lord and hidalgo. If the league takes hockey and everyone else loses, we are on the wrong track, says Virtanen.

In Virtanen’s opinion, it is wrong that the right to play for the Finnish championship has been given to a single joint-stock company, unlike in other ball sports.

– This is the wrong way and we have drifted into this because one limited company has been given the right to manage and take the raisin from the bun, says Virtanen.

According to Virtanen, the unfair competitive situation has far-reaching effects. They reach all the way to the junior track.

Due to the closed league, Mestis clubs like Koovee have lost their most talented juniors to league clubs at a very early stage, says Virtanen.

Virtanen hopes that the soon-to-be appointed new chairman of the Ice Hockey Federation will be brave and fair. Restrictions on competition must be addressed.

– We want and need free competition. We have to go back to a system where all clubs can fairly compete for the Finnish championship.