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Monday, July 19, 2010

Never a dull summer for the Sheffield Steelers (Don’t let it be the last)

In most sports, the off-season is when other than for the odd bit of signing news, fans in most sports turn their attentions elsewhere as nothing much happens. Ok so football fans have either the European Championships or World Cup every couple of years to keep them entertained, but typically the off-season provides a break and the opportunity to do other things. In ice hockey, particularly British ice hockey and even more specifically the Sheffield Steelers case, the off-season often provides more entertainment than the game does itself.

A few weeks back it was reported that an operating company of the Sheffield Steelers (Yorkshire Sports Ltd) had been put in to administration, then ten days ago the Steelers management team (including GM Mike O’Connor, Coach David Matsos and announcer David Simms) walked out citing a vote of no confidence in owner Bob Phillips. A week later Phillips announced that the club was for sale and that the league would be handling this process.

Very little real facts about the situation have come out since then, though a vocal minority of fans immediately sided with the former management team while some fans of Cardiff Devils were having Déjà Vu of when Phillips was owner of the Welsh side. The latest twist has seen some season ticket holders being contacted to say their season ticket payments were wrongly paid to Yorkshire Sports Ltd rather than Sheffield Steelers Ltd, though exactly who made the mistake and when it occurred is still unknown. An article in today's Star says that Phillips has called in specialists to help with a forensic accounting exercise and recover missing data from computer systems.  No doubt there will be more twists and turns over the coming weeks, and while fans want to no what has gone on, they must accept they don’t have any particular rights to know about all the inner-workings of what is essentially a private company of which they are a customer.

Personally, I hope fans can put whatever feelings they have for owners and staff (past, present and future) to one side and focus on the on ice team and giving them their continued support.  While the club has had numerous financial problems over the years and various changes in ownership, perhaps the biggest was at the end of the 2000/1 season when control of the club passed from Darren Brown to Norton Lea. The following season crowds dropped dramatically, many of those no longer attending in protest of Lea being the owner rather than their preferred consortium. I just hope this doesn’t happen this time around as if it does, I fear it will make the club unsustainable and mean fans no longer have a team to support.

Hopefully fans will follow the advice of the teams former announcer and PR man, David Simms, and do as he plans; turn up for the first game and pay their £16 to support their team, regardless of who is or isn’t running things behind the scenes.

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