GREAT BRITAIN’S men’s coach Pete Russell has more pressing concerns now than next year's World Championships. His worry is for his players who are needing to find work after the Elite League was suspended last week.

Now at Freiburg, Germany, the former Glasgow Clan coach's plans for next May’s competition in the Belarusian capital of Minsk are up in the air but his main concern is seeing the players expected to be involved in the tournament finding a team.

“It’s going to affect the national team and it’s a tough one for the British players,” Russell said. “These guys have to find places to play, whether that’s outwith the country or playing in the UK somewhere. I’m sure there’s a lot of concern for those players.

“In fact, I’ve had a number of calls from some of the guys - more than normal - over the last week and the message is consistent, that it’s tough for jobs right now. The coronavirus isn’t any different in Europe, but those leagues have funding to be able to continue. The Elite League doesn’t.

“For the players, I just hope they can get something for the sake of their families and never mind looking ahead to a World Championships. We just have to wait and see what happens with that over time.

“For me, the league’s decision was simple. The owners have a tough job in the Elite League and they try to balance everything, while trying to grow their clubs year after year. The biggest thing people must understand the fans are the foundation to the EIHL. Without them, they can’t run their clubs. There’s no television money or significant government funding. I’m sure it’s the very last thing they wanted to have to decide on, but they have and whether we like it or not, it’s the situation they are in.”

Russell helped keep GB in the top group of the World Championships in Kosice, Slovakia in 2019 but was denied the chance to do it again this year when the competition, which was to be hosted in Lausanne, Switzerland, was cancelled.

Another campaign facing the likes of Russia and Sweden in 2021 is a tough enough proposition without taking a team who have been largely idle for a year, and it is not something Russell is keen to do.

“We’re still in Pool A and we have the possibility of going there with a team who maybe haven’t played all year. It’s unheard of, but it’s also ridiculous. It’s absolutely nobody’s fault, but this thing just won’t go away.

“The tournament is a big enough challenge, but for me, I just hope the guys get somewhere to play and we can something up and running in the UK. I don’t like the thought of picking players going into a competition like that having not played all year.

“If some of the Elite League teams can get a tournament going and the NIHL leagues can play in the New Year, plus some other guys get to play in Europe as some are doing already, it would be helpful to them. If not, you would be putting those guys in a crazy situation. It wouldn’t be smart to put someone in a situation where they play something like seven games over 12 days. It would be a struggle so I hope it doesn’t come to that.”