The EIHA have clarified funding arrangements following claims they’ve been allocated the £4 million originally allocated to the Elite League.
It comes after interviews with EIHL chairman Tony Smith, who owns Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers owner Neil Black following the news the top flight wouldn’t be receiving the government money, where they suggested the cash had been funnelled to the EIHA and NIHL instead.
They had spoken of their surprise that they wouldn’t be receiving the funding, but that EIHA would be, allowing them to implement their phased return, which is due to start later this month.
Smith believed the government was playing fast and loose with the term “Elite”, perhaps in confusion over “Elite League” and “elite sports,” which teams have been bestowed with by the government to allow them to play.
While Black was more direct in his criticism, accusing DCMS of ignoring professional sportspeople in favour of what he called “amateurs.”
“It was there in black and white that Elite League was destined for that money, but I’ve been told it’s been slightly diluted from “Elite League” to “elite sports” and there’s been a variation on what constitutes Elite ice hockey now,” Smith told BBC Sheffield.
“We asked the question about where the money was going and they said no, that £4 million was solely for the Elite League.
“The other was a slush fund that was being made available for other levels of ice hockey. We’ve been at this a long time and it was made clear all the way through the money was for the Elite League.”
Black told BBC Nottingham: “We had a plan in place for our teams to play in a secure bubble and give them the safest environment to play in we could do for them.
“Then I find out we’re getting nothing, our plans can’t go ahead then, unbelievably I find this, given the guidelines and what we should and shouldn’t do in public, I hear they’re giving money to amateur sport where ice hockey is not their main job.
“It’s their second job which I find astonishing. We’re very angry and we hope the situation can be made with a different outcome.
“I have no idea why a process we’ve gone through as outlined in the government’s release in November and what we thought what the package is all about, the process seems to have changed and money that was to be allocated to the Elite League has magically gone somewhere else.”
But a spokesman for the EIHA insists this isn’t the case at all, stating they were involved in their own negotiation with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Sport England.
They said: “The EIHL was allocated £4m in the initial round of funding published by DCMS and as indicated at the time, this was an indicative amount that would be confirmed through an application process to follow.
“The EIHA was, throughout the same period as the EIHL, working with DCMS to provide information on the impact on spectator restrictions and were supporting the EIHL in ensuring that their application was made to DCMS.
“Confirmation was received in December that a further £1.2m of funding was to be made available to the NIHL and this would take the total funding to ice hockey as a sport through the survival funding to £5.2m.
“We also share the frustrations of the EIHL as their support of our GB athletes in particular would have been critical in the on-ice performance and conditioning prior to the World Championships in May.
“Talks between the EIHA, NIHL and DCMS are ongoing however our aim is to support our athletes back to the ice safely as soon as possible.
“We have confirmed with our NIHL National teams a schedule and operation of the league from mid-February in what is a critical part of the performance pathway for ice hockey where semi-professional athletes’ transition from amateur to professional.”