English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) Chairman Ken Taggart is not anticipating making any major changes to the structure of the EPL next season.
With both Bracknell Bees and Manchester Phoenix experiencing some well-documented financial issues this term, concerns have been raised about the future of the league, but Taggart (above left) says he is confident the EPL will continue to flourish.
“Bracknell and Manchester have both indicated they intend to be part of the EPL next season,” said Taggart.
“We’ve got a league meeting coming up where we’ll be talking about the best way forward in both cases, but assuming the other teams are happy with what’s discussed the two clubs have made it clear they see their future in the EPL.”
The EIHA boss also confirmed he doesn’t expect to lose any teams to the Elite League and he’s not anticipating any club making a move in the opposite direction.
“The costs involved for any club thinking of moving up are a major stumbling block,” added Taggart.
“You’re potentially looking at a three-fold increase in outlay between the EPL and Elite League over the course of a season – where would that money come from?”
An increase in the number of imports allowed in the EPL is also set to be discussed at the upcoming meeting.
Taggart admitted this was something he wasn’t personally in favour of, but he did understand why clubs might want to do this from a commercial prospective.
“Ultimately it’s the owners who are shouldering the financial risk in running a club, so if they think increasing the number of imports will make their product better then of course they’ll want to do that,” said Taggart.
Rumours that NIHL North teams Solihull Barons and Blackburn Hawks had expressed an interest in joining the EPL were denied by Taggart, with the EIHA supremo questioning whether either club were in a position to make the step up.
“Barons would need to make improvements to their rink, particularly the lack of plexi-glass, before we could even consider them joining the EPL,” Taggart said.
“In the case of the Hawks, they certainly have the necessary facility but there are a number of other questions in play.
“They’ve been heavily reliant on players from outside the area in recent times. Are there enough players of the required standard in the North West and is their junior programme strong enough at the moment to sustain EPL-level hockey?
“In addition, would they be able to bring in enough additional gate revenue and sponsorship to make it work – especially in a town where hockey isn’t the main sport?
“Hawks are currently enjoying success in NIHL and bringing in decent crowds – would there be the same appetite amongst the local population to watch a team which might not be as successful higher up the scale?
“Ultimately the decision will lie with the new owners. If they think they can make everything stack up, then they’ll look to make the jump. As things stand though, neither the Hawks or Barons have expressed any interest in moving leagues.”
(Image permission: Steve Brodie)