Power is Where the Money Lays
Power is where the money lays. I am not sure if that is a famous quote or not but I think it is a good statement to sum up the current feeling in British ice hockey.
Behind the scenes for a number of years owners have quietly exerted their influence and moulded the leagues into what they think suits them. The checks on one owner or chairman getting too much of their own way was that every other owner or chairman was doing the same thing.
Slowly though the money seems to be coming from a smaller circle. The Black family perhaps started it when they formed the Braehead Clan. Since then though Coventryâ€™s owners dabbled with the Hull Stingrays and now this closed season the shrinking of the money pool has been even more exaggerated.
Red Hockey who bought into the Telford Tigers have since bought into the Bracknell Bees and Manchester Phoenix and now have bought NIHL side Deeside Dragons. Over in Yorkshire meanwhile Steeldogs owner Shane Smith has stepped up to create a new senior side in Hull to replace the Hull Stingrays.
On one hand I think it great that their people in the sport that are willing to step up and help out another rink or city. Fans suffer with their teams and to see a side die is heart wrenching. The Black family have done a fantastic job with the help of the management team in Braehead to return the sport to the city at a professional level so long after the Scottish Eagles failed. Wayne Scholes and Red Hockeyâ€™s input into the Telford Tigers and making that side secure for the future after the work the fans did to save the side is a massive boost for the sport. The same involvement in the Bracknell Bees has probably saved that side.
Investment in the Deeside Dragons will be welcomed as well and it does seem to have revitalised the Manchester Phoenix somewhat. Shane Smithâ€™s intervention in Hull is also so welcomed not only with senior hockey back in Hull for another season but the EPL is also back to 10 teams.
The problems come though when you look deeper. Are these teams with shared owners and shared stakes still acting independently? Dominic Osman for example jumped from coaching the Sheffield Steeldogs to the coaching the Hull Pirates would that move have happened if Smith hadnâ€™t had a stake in both teams is the question.
It goes deeper than that though with questions about the goings on in meetings. If a 1 person has a stake in more teams than anyone else are they able to exert more influence on the outcome of that meeting than a team with one owner. Guildford or Edinburgh for example are teams with an owner independent of other teams in their leagues and operate in an independent rink but are their opinions being drowned out by that of the new combined ownerships.
It may be true that it combined ownership amongst teams may give a shared vision and this may help with player development but that is not necessary. Widnes has worked successfully with Sheffield Steeldogs and the Steeldogs with Hull Stingrays to improve a player pathway and all without a shared owner.
At the moment the narrowing of the investment pool in teams is saving teams and the sport in towns and cities across the UK, which is a great thing. However for how long can it last and how long will the money last. More importantly what happens when the money goes away?