A Warning for EIHL Leadership Independence?
The current situation presents many challenges for sports stemming from the lack of games and the associated revenue that brings in. British ice hockey is perhaps not in the worst possible situation from a financial view as its season was almost finished.
Other sports leagues may not be so lucky. Not that the EIHL will be completely immune from this crises. The XFL looks like it will fold (again) not returning for the planned second season whilst in Australia the NRL has told its sides no more bail outs will be available. More worrying are comments from former league commissioner Greame Samual saying that the influence of the clubs in league decisions had lead to the league being in a weaker positions to deal with this crisis. Samual compared the NRL to the AFL (Aussie Rules) who he was a commissioner of previously as well. However this could hold a warning for the EIHL.
Clubs have long had a great deal of influence over the how the league operates. This includes its format, cup competitions, fixtures and even events like the playoff weekend. There is no independent person on the board Tony Smith serves as the EIHL chairman whilst also owner of the Sheffield Steelers. Fans have long complained about this and it has lead to many fans seeing the Elite League has having a favouritism towards the arena teams at the expense of the newer clubs.
Finding someone to fulfill such a role may be necessary to make the difficult decisions needed to ensure the Elite League has the most stable footing. Samual in the article highlights an AFL decision in the early 1980’s which was unpopular at the time but has now put the league on a firm financial footing in which the AFL can support all sides. Without a more independent leadership it may be impossible for the EIHL to make a similar decision.
Money is always the main issue and the lack of will no doubt make it extremely difficult to appoint someone to be the independent league chair or commissioner who isn’t already involved with a club. Experience is also a challenge as British ice hockey is quite different to many other countries in the set up of clubs and format of the league.
Todd Kelman has often been citied as a possible person for the role given his success in promoting first Belfast and now Cardiff but is very firmly entrenched at the Devils. Paul Thompson could be another potential candidate having had much experience with the Coventry Blaze and Sheffield Steelers as well as coaching in Europe. Thommo also expressed an interest in returning to the EIHL with the vacancy in Glasgow.