Neil Morris: Manchester Phoenix update

Manchester Phoenix boss Neil Morris has issued an update about the club’s position following last Sunday’s meeting with supporters at Deeside Ice Rink:

“Sometimes being asked to write-up what you said to a bunch of people you trust, breaks their confidence.

“In the case of talking to the people that make up a very small following called The Phoenix Supporters, I am sure they would have no problem in me sharing what I said last Sunday, 24th January 2016.

“For the record, we purposely held this meeting for the Phoenix support at Deeside before the game as they are the only people that the information concerns.

“They are the people that are turning up week after week and making the round trip on average of over 100 miles.

“They are the people that affect the decisions we make as an organisation. The problem nowadays is that everybody else on social media wants to have an input, even though in reality they have no interest or association with the club itself.

“I am putting this information out as supporters of MPIHC say that people with no knowledge of the matters discussed are reporting on the meeting inaccurately, which is causing some distress.

“Firstly, what is happening at the club and what has the money been spent on so far?

“Well, as we explained at the first meeting and put in writing (and explained twice on the podcast), we have a premiership club that takes about £350k per season to run.

“Some of the clubs in our division are more near £450k + to run. So the club needs about £50k per month when it operates normally.

“Tony and I have stripped our club back at the moment to around £35k per month. The only staff that Phoenix has is its playing staff. Our playing staff wages, expenses and taxes come to about £26k of that per month.

“We then have housing, cars, fuel, ice rental and equipment with away travel. It is very tight at the moment and some of our suppliers have been outstanding with us.

“Without them and the supporters, we just would not be here now. We raised about £26k which just about covered our wage bill for December. We are taking about another £10k on the gate per month – which includes all of our sundry income as well.

“We have already spelled out to those wanting to read, watch and listen that the money raised so far was to get us into the New Year and to the stage we have reached now.

“We did look at the option of downsizing and asking most of the boys to leave. However, as Tony pointed out, there just are not enough young players out there that are just sat at home.

“Most are already committed to NIHL teams or are working and cannot commit to playing for an EPIHL squad.

“This is also probably one of the most competitive seasons we have had since we joined the EPIHL.

“We think a young inexperienced team would have been shipping goals possibly into double figures regularly.

“This does not make for good entertainment in other teams’ buildings, never mind at home. Our support already has to be motivated to make that journey to Deeside week-in and week-out.

“As well as that concern, there was the very practical issue: if you have insufficient players to ice a team (like if there is the sort of injury crush we had before Christmas), you forfeit the game. Gassing players was not an option.

“So we decided to make it very black and white; we either try and play and entertain and compete or we just stop and close down the club.

“The problem with closing down the club is that we let down all the people that have followed us loyally for 11 years.

“We also let down the other clubs who all lose a home gate probably worth £10k each. We also sold over £20k worth of tickets for the play-offs last season. This would make a very heavy impact with all the other teams in the EPIHL.

“For those who are commenting that it ‘doesn’t look good’ to be signing players when asking for money, just think that through.

“We lose an import. A valuable one on the ice. That’s life. Family comes first and all clubs release players in those circumstances.

“I am not going to give precise figures as it would be unlawful to do so (and unfair), but I have confirmed already that the signings that followed represented absolutely no additional spend that we had committed to prior to Nico’s departure.

“We have a Coach who is good like that. Most clubs in the top two flights have had one of Tony’s finds pass through their rosters over the years.

“We were able to spend no more whilst having two new bodies. One, an import who could inject some fire into our forward lines and make the product on the ice more entertaining and more appealing to potential sponsors.

“Another who is a local lad who has played for Phoenix before and whose talent has only developed over the years he has been in the in-line world.

“My duty to do right by the club and by the fans was unassailable to do what I did and to take both on. To do otherwise would have been absurd.

“For all of the noise from other clubs and other armchair pundits: when you think that through, you know that arguing that this was a poor decision is nonsense.

“Moreover, there are no Phoenix fans who are watching the team as it now is and saying: ‘Well, I wish Neil and Tony hadn’t signed these two. I want my money back’.

“If you knew you would lose valuable support in the November of the hockey season, you would never have started this journey. I wouldn’t anyway.

“So the plan and journey we are following is not one that under normal circumstances we would adopt.

“Mothballing was a non-starter as we would never have been able to bounce back from that. If you don’t understand why not, then you do not understand the sports business scene in Greater Manchester.

“Like I said, it became very black and white: get us back to a home in Manchester or close down forever.

“So, Phase Two.

“Sponsors and I have covered a lot of January, but we will still need to raise about another £80k to see us to the end of the season. We intend to try to sell £50k worth of shares in the holding company behind Phoenix.

“We think we can raise another £10k a month from the gate and sundries, which will leave a shortfall of about £10k which we have asked our season ticket holders to please pay for the last game in each month for January, February and March.

“If any of them cannot afford to help in this way, they will never be turned away from this club. This idea came from a supporter and we have adopted it. It is a request. It is voluntary. We understand financial hardship!

“And, to be blunt, it is absolutely not the business of any third party what one of our supporters wants to do with his/her money.

“Having bemoaned social media a little, I turn to it to show that fans who have been helping us to get to where we are in the season are explicitly saying that they are doing so knowing that there is no promise.

“They are doing so knowing that we may not make it. But they are happy to help us try. That’s between them and us.

“If you don’t like that or if you think that you wouldn’t do such a thing to help your club, then that’s a matter for you.

“What I cannot stomach is those who talk loudly about hockey family and then sneer at another club’s fans as deluded or stupid for doing something that they want to do. If that’s you, please just examine your motivation for your behaviour.

“I will fight for this club until it’s all over and we cannot possibly trade any more. And that’s what will happen if we cannot do this. We will have no choice but to close the club and stop trading.

“I have kept this club going for 11 years and put over £600k of my own money into the club. Unfortunately, I cannot do that anymore and I need help.

“We need to keep this ice hockey club alive together as long as we can or we make a majority decision to retire our club colours and logo forever.

“We have a fantastic opportunity back in Manchester that, when built, will be awesome. We will have to play out of a warehouse for three years until then.

“This will consist of bleachers, porta cabins for changing, showers, toilets, food outlets and a shop.

“Believe it or not, we have investors that have signed that business plan off already. Getting people to invest in a Manchester hockey club playing out of North Wales is not a very attractive proposition as it is losing money every week it trades.

“Would Tony and I have played on if we had no chance of a home back in Manchester? No, we would have closed the business back in the summer. There is absolutely no point to playing in Flintshire now if we cannot play in Manchester next season.

“Will this information help people on the outside to understand what we are going through and what it is taking to save this club? Only if they bother to read it.

“Will they all still know a better way of doing it? Of course they will. Will any of them come forward and help us? Well, who knows?

“If they do, they will be listened to. No idea is a stupid one. Understand that the club has considered a vast number of ideas.

“May I please thank all the individuals and other hockey clubs that have come to our aid. Thank You.

“You are all true hockey family. from the huge contribution from the Flames outfit last weekend and support at a club level from around the UK to the smaller ‘chipping in’ amounts from individual fans from other clubs.

“Every penny has helped to pay directly to keep players on the ice.

“I would like to thank all the Phoenix supporters for everything: the help with money, the hugs, the smiles and the motivation to get up and go again every day. Thank you.

“And for everybody that does not want to help us, but wants to have an opinion on what we should do. You are correct, I am not the best man for this job, nor am I a perfect human being.

“I make mistakes most days of my life. There are better men than me out there to get this job done. They have just not appeared in the queue behind me yet.”

1 Comment

  1. I’m a Flames supporter, but one who lives in Manchester. I cannot envisage the EPL without the Phoenix in it. Neil is right – us “outsiders” don’t have a say in this, but we can still admire the honesty shown in the article and show our support for the Phoenix management however we can. We sit beside you on play-off weekend, and all genuine fans, no matter what colours they wear, want to see the Phoenix in the league and playing in their home city.

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