A rumour that has been doing the rounds for some time recently made another appearance. The news that Eithad, the airline company that has close connections to the Manchester City FC owners and has recently sponsored their Eastlands stadium for a £100m, is interested in investing in other Manchester sports. Most notably it seems they mean basketball and ice hockey.
However would this be a boost or not to those sports. Whilst extra investment I am sure would be welcomed if that investment turned into a take over would it still be in the best interests of the sports? If that scenario was to happen for the Manchester Phoenix for example it could lead to a world of possibilities. A new rink perhaps in the Eastlands area which would be welcomed given the problems of the Altair project, a return to the Elite league even as well as a boost in funding of their merchandising, youth programme and publicity funds.
All great but beware the hand that feeds you. Every hockey and basketball fan in Manchester is all to aware of how quickly things can change and for those further a field a look at the Cardiff Devils and the Sheffield Steelers this summer alone will give you all the evidence you need. And change they might as it is hard to see what Eithad or the Arab investors would get out of owning a British ice hockey or basketball team.
It is easy to see the name and brand exposure being associated with Manchester City gives you especially if you buy one of the worlds most talked about players all you need to do is watch any news programme or go to any soccer website and there is a picture of Carlos Tevez with Etihad plastered on his shirt. Not to mention the tens of millions of people that watch premier league games live each week. Then there is the prize money and champions league money and tv deals to make it all worth while. In British ice hockey that doesnt happen. British teams even in the Elite League can struggle for exposure, they have not been invited to play in the European Trophy (replacement for the Champions Hockey League) and tv games are only broadcast on sky sports. The prize money as well is tiny compared with the costs.
However, perhaps Etihad are wanting to build a sports club like those seen on the continent. There teams play under the same banner but in different sports such as Slavia Prague with its ice hockey, football, rugby, handball and volleyball teams. Although this seems like a lot of expense and effort for what would be an artificle sports club not founded on history or commonality just corporatism.
But the Manchester Phoenix does seem to be in save hands as owner Neil Morris stated earlier this summer if he was to sell the club it would only be to some one willing to continue the work with juniors and not put the club at risk.