Raiders Return to Romford Shines Spotlight

Home advantage takes many shapes. In hockey it is particular important. Home ice means you can change your players second, it means you can place your stick on the face off second, it means less travel, nicer dressing rooms, own bed the night before. Mostly importantly it means your own fans. Fans which are the life blood of a team. They and their money and passion keep a team going and pay the wages.

Sunday evening saw the London Raiders return to their home turf of Romford with the opening of the Sapphire Ice and Leisure Centre. It was a homecoming many thought would not happen. When the Raiders left Rom Valley Way in 2013 they became the latest in a long line of teams that had had promises of new rinks, temporary rinks and renovations but had never been followed through.

As the seasons went by and the Raiders survived sometimes barely at Lee Valley the prospect of a return to Romford will have seemed distant to many fans who made the trips to see them. It is that that made Sunday’s game against Cardiff Fire (a team that didn’t exist the last time the Raiders were in Romford) all the more satisfying and why it was a massive success with a sell out crowd.

It is a story that many fans will be pleased with and a lesson to always keep the hope and working towards your goal. It is also a story that again shows how fragile the sport is in this country and how the model is broken. Teams do not have the security of a rink of their own to fall back on. All teams rely on the cooperation of the building in which they play in. If that goes the team goes. It also means that the revenue the rink makes is not totally the in the control of team. Each team will have its own agreement with the building as to what revenue from concessions it gets and what rent it pays but none of it is under the control of team.

The solution would be for teams to build and operate their own venues but one that is costly to start up and their is not the money to do that. And two, it is time consuming with planning applications taking many many years. That is not feasible.

If nothing else the Raiders home coming has shed light on other teams with out a home such as Bristol and Isle of Wight, those still waiting on a permanent home like the Manchester Storm and those with uncertain futures such as the Basingstoke sides.

 

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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