The NIHL North play-offs descended into farce yesterday evening, after it was claimed Billingham Stars had been removed from the competition.
The reigning play-off champions were due to play Sutton Sting in the semi-final, but announced on their own website their opponents had been awarded a bye to the final.
Stars claimed the EIHA Fixtures Secretary had published dates for the two legs on the league website without agreement from Billingham. The matter was subsequently referred to the League Management Committee, with Chairman Ken Taggart apparently informing Stars they were “deemed as having withdrawn from the competition.”
Stars boss Allen Flavell was said to be “outraged and shocked” by the decision, heavily criticising both the EIHA and Sutton. He went on to say the club are seeking “legal advice aimed at recovering lost income based on the agreed rules of competition.”
Sting are believed to have trained as normal last night in preparation for the games. Coach Ian Johnson contacted C2C this morning with the following statement, “As far as we are concerned and until we are officially notified by the EIHA, we are continuing with our preparations for the two-leg semi-final against Billingham.”
Since the publication of this article, Mr Taggart contacted C2C with the following statement:
“After quite a difficult scheduling process due to scarcity of ice for some clubs, the play-off dates were posted on 21 March. These dates were also posted on Billingham’s website but since removed. On 2 April, Billingham started asking for changes anticipating playing in the final with Solway.
Numerous attempts have been made to accommodate their requests but no solution has been found to satisfy both teams, so the original dates stand. Billingham have not notified the EIHA they will not be attending the game against Sutton, at Sheffield on 14 April, although we understand they have posted some information in error on their website.
No team has been given a bye. All teams were notified at the initial scheduling meeting that Sutton were unavailable 6/7 April and there is ice available at Solway on 27 April after the Rec Tournament finishes at 6.15pm.”