Some teams operate as semi-pro teams, then others operate as amateur clubs. Imports in the NIHL aren't common so they tend to make a big deal out of them and often rely on the imports to put up heavy points totals or be solid in nets. I'd say the NIHL isn't at the EPL level, due to the divide between top teams and bottom teams, it's even more huge in the NIHL now. You've got teams like Hull, Sheffield and Telford, who aren't rich in the grand scheme of things but the finances are there to enable either to walk past most of the 'competition' they'll face. Bottom of the spectrum is Cardiff Fire and Nottingham Lions, neither are sem-pro, well not by my eyes anyway and most players probably pay to play and are young guys. Besides the exception of 46 year old Nicky Chinn for Cardiff.. The league is a recipe for disaster imo. It needs to split again soon. The original NIHL teams should return to their own league, unless they apply for the EPL level and should focus solely on young--ish players. 17-22 year olds, then the EPL should encourage wide usage of young players but not totally dismiss signing older guys. The NIHL would then become the next step out of Juniors for a lot of players, then they can step up to the EPL and then in theory step up to the EIHL in some capacity. If they're good enough then they could just skip the EPL part, and I'm sure EIHL teams will continue to pick young players straight out of juniors.