To Share or Not to Share? Homeless Sides Get Cold Shoulder

The news that the Romford Raiders would no longer be able to continue next season was not a total shock. The saga over the redevelopment of the Rom Valley Way ice rink had rumbled on for a long time with the council among those who could be said to have let down the club by reneging on an early guarantee to provide a temporary rink.

The Romford outfit explored options to play matches ‘on the road’ at local venues such as Lee Valley, Brixton or Alexandra Palace. In a situation similar to that of another homeless side the Bristol Pitbulls. Despite a deal looking close the agreement with the Lee Valley Ice Centre fell through leaving the Raiders left out. At a similar time to the Romford announcement it emerged the Newcastle Vipers had made enquires to return to action in the National League playing at Hillheads the home of the Whitley Warriors. That attempt also fell through asking the question when should the venue of another team host a homeless club?

The Whitley Warriors felt that by having a second team at the same building in the same league as them that their fan base, sponsors, player recruitment would be affected. In simple teams both the Warriors and Vipers would be trying to gather the same fans, sponsors and local players as each other and in an already difficult market. It is an understandable point of view for the Whitley Warriors to make. They are the senior side and want to grow their team and audience. The Vipers want to rebuild their team and brand and audience.

It is a compelling argument but then you have to think about the good of the sport. More teams means more players more opportunities for the youth to come through and ultimately it does mean more matches and more tickets to sell.

A look at the Swindon Wildcats and the Link Centre who have put up the Bristol Pitbulls since they lost their rink is an example of a team helping another. However the senior Swindon side ices in the Premier League as opposed to Bristol who play in the National League removing that conflict.

Whilst it is understandable that teams want to protect their own interest’s derby matches are what the fans look forward too. The real tragedy of the Romford Raiders is that potential by the start of the 2014 – 15 season they could be opening their new rink. Unlike in Newcastle or Bristol there are plans in place for a new Romford ice rink making a sharing arrangement temporary. And unlike in Newcastle or Bristol there are multiple options with 4 other rinks potential available. Whilst it would not have been ideal to play home matches at more than one venue it would have kept the team alive.

Gone - The Rom Valley Way Ice Rink

Gone – The Rom Valley Way Ice Rink

It is only fair to mention that it is not all about the clubs. The rink operators have to be on board as well. However another side at the rink does mean a chance for revenue from drinks and food sales and at times that they would not normally be getting them. Really the stake holders in the Romford case need their heads banging together and see the light. Hockey fans are loyal and with Harringay back in action, Lee Valley, Chelmsford and Streatham, Romford being there as well would have made for some more derby games with noisy passionate support.

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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