Knight back in Spotlight

Christopher Knight came out of his self-imposed hiding on Monday to give his side of the story in the Belfast Giants case. Knight via a website called thetruthaboutthegiants.com began publishing answers regarding elements of the player walk out and the reformation of the club in February. Most of this is tit for tat with what was claimed in the media at the time and by the ‘new’ club but if you delve deeper this is another case that highlights the need for reform in the governance of the sport in the UK.

There is little doubting Todd Kelman’s commitment to the sport in the UK and in Northern Ireland and to the Belfast Giants. After all Kelman joined the Giants as a player and has been behind the scenes pretty much ever since most notably as a GM. But one of the claims made on Knight’s website is that it is in fact Todd Kelman who now owns the Elite League and is also on the board of Ice Hockey UK.

Whether or not Kelman owns the Britains top league or just works for them is pretty irrelevant as either way it is something of a conflict of interest. It has also been known for a long time that the EIHL is heavily represented on the board of IHUK. In fact Kelman sits alongside Sheffield owner Tony Smith and Coventry part owner Andy French. Knight’s website merely highlights the owner bias that goes on in the hierarchy of the sport.

It is a bias that has been going on for years and gotten worse since Eamon Convey resigned as chairman. It is a bias though that has stopped the league taking the hard decisions on such things as salary caps and ultimately is what will prevent expansion of the top flight. For example Neil Black of the Nottingham Panthers is recognised as being a good owner. The Panthers are a stable club with growing attendances and many successful seasons. However Black is criticised for opposing salary caps but a salary cap may not be the best thing for his club at this moment in time and herein lays the problem. Self-interest is too prominent as the leadership is the same as the ones running the clubs.

No matter who said what and when and did what to whom over the Belfast Giants it is clear that governance needs to be more transparent and independent. Whilst it is great for the sport to have a team in Belfast and is great for Northern Ireland to have a team in professional European league the change of ownership was pretty dodgy at the time and you do wonder if the ownership bias had not quite been as strong whether or not there would have been ramifications for the side in teams of fines or point reductions.

This is of course nothing new in 2000 the Sheffield Steelers where allowed to keep a league title and prize money that exceeded the fine imposed despite being found guilty of improper payments to players.

Neil Tucker

Neil has written on ice hockey for many websites concentrating on British ice hockey mostly. Neil also covers ice hockey in other countries and organises his Blueliner Hockey Tour. A graduate of the Manchester Metropolitan University Neil turned his hand to hockey writing in 2009. As well as contributing on Blueliner Hockey Neil has contributed to Get Real Hockey and Slapshot Magasine.

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