The silence in Hull has been shattered. Whilst the news broke of the Elite League’s plan to split the league into two conferences the new owners in Hull remained quiet. Until today that is.
Prospective new owner of the East Yorkshire side Nic Gough told a local website that he did not hear about the structural changes until after the meeting had been held. Gough also expressed his concern that the Stingrays, by being placed in a conference with 4 Scottish sides, would loose out on the big gate receipts from playing local rivals Sheffield more often as well as the increasing travel costs. Gough’s anger at the changes, which were agreed to in principle by partner Bobby McEwan went as far as the local businessman withdrawing from the bid to run the side.
McEwan has since announced that he will take the club on without the support of Gough and the planned press conference and Fans Forum for tomorrow night will go head. The Stingrays are expected to be announced as having won the right to the ice time contract in the city council ran arena and to announce new signings, which may include GB international Ben Bowns. However, this will be side tracked by questions over the league meeting and the future of the club.
It is another embarrassment for the leagues management. 3 seasons ago there were meetings involving some owners including the Nottingham Panthers that were leaked as an attempt to force less financially powerful sides out the competition. Even before the start of last season former league chairman Eamon Convery left his post and was the subject of rumours and investigations of mismanagement and irregularities.
It is a lack of leadership that has forced the EIHL into this situation. The location both geographically and financially of the Hull Stingrays means that if the leagues plan for a 2 conference structure is to work then the Stingrays need become a draw with the people of Hull. That will depend on whether McEwan can manage the pennies effectively enough to produce an entertaining and competitive team on the ice. This is a task that with the increased travel to Scotland and lose of games against Sheffield and Nottingham was hard and has been made all the harder by the withdrawal Gough from the bidding team.
Only time will tell if this can be done but if it can not be then it is possible that not only will we see the end of the conference experiment but an end to the Hull Stingrays.