China is set to host the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A for the next three year's if it plays in the tournament ©Getty Images

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Semi-Annual Congress in the Turkish town of Belek has approved a three-year contract for second-tier Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship events to be held in China.

Under the agreement, China has been awarded hosting rights for the 2023, 2024 and 2025 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A, provided the country plays in the tournament.

The 18,000-capacity Shenzhen Universiade Centre in Shenzhen is the proposed venue for 2023.

China returned to the women's ice hockey tournament at the Olympic Games as host at Beijing 2022 for the first time since Vancouver 2010, ranking ninth overall.

The country was promoted from Division I Group B of the Women's World Championship to Group A this year.

The deal is worth $3 million (£2.7 million/€3.1 million) to the IIHF for each year the tournament is held in China, with each participating team receiving $100,000 (£89,600/€102,000).

Remaining contribution funds are to be used for the sport's development in Asia and Oceania with a particular emphasis on the women's game.

The Chinese Ice Hockey Association has declared its ambitions to build on the legacy of Beijing 2022 by hosting IIHF events, and its President Wang Xuan told the Semi-Annual Congress: "We will grow women’s hockey together and we want to welcome the teams in China."

Most sporting events in China since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic have been postponed or cancelled, notably the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games until next year, with a strict closed-loop management system implemented to ensure Beijing 2022 went ahead.

Russia and Belarus had their IIHF World Championship participation
Russia and Belarus had their IIHF World Championship participation "frozen" at the Annual Congress in May ©Getty Images

However, the International Table Tennis Federation World Team Table Tennis Championships began today in Chengdu.

The Semi-Annual Congress also approved plans to fill tournaments to the regular number of teams given the decision to "freeze participation" of Russia and Belarus.

A deadline for a decision on Russia and Belarus has been set at after the first preliminary round match of the respective IIHF World Championship in the men's senior category.

Both countries have been banned by the IIHF since the end of February due to the invasion of Ukraine, with Saint Petersburg stripped of next year's men's World Championship, and the governing body's President Luc Tardif said the decision does not affect their status.

"To be clear, this decision does not indicate a return of the Russian and Belarusian teams to IIHF competition," the French official said.

"Congress needed to take this decision so that the IIHF members understand the terms of a future reintegration of these countries into the IIHF programme.

"The IIHF Council will continue to monitor the war in Ukraine."

IIHF President Luc Tardif said
IIHF President Luc Tardif said "IIHF Council will continue to monitor the war in Ukraine" ©Getty Images

A full programme for the 2023 IIHF World Championships was approved following tournaments held between June and September, with Mongolia returning to the men's senior competition as host of Division IV alongside debutants the Philippines and Indonesia.

Thailand have entered the men's under-18 Division III Group B for the first time, as have Bulgaria, Belgium and Estonia in the women's under-18 Division II Group B.

Moreover, the Semi-Annual Congress admitted Puerto Rico as an associate member of the IIHF, taking its membership up to 83 National Associations.

The Puerto Rico Ice Hockey Association was founded in 2020, and its executive director Scott Vargas welcomed the move.

"We are extremely honoured to be admitted as a member of the IIHF," he said.

"Our goal is to represent Puerto Rico at the highest level possible on the international stage and this brings us one step closer to doing that.

"In just 28 months we have accomplished a lot for a small hockey nation and this official recognition will give us a greater ability to grow the game of ice hockey in Puerto Rico."

Iran has also had its status upgraded from associate to full membership.