Fife Flyers update on their EIHL future

Pic: FFP
Pic: FFP

Fife Flyers have finally confirmed they WILL play in ice hockey’s Elite League next season.

The club has been listed as one of the 12 participants since it attended an EIHL board meeting and agreed the structure for the 2017-18 campaign at the end of April.

It will include the three conference system Flyers lobbied for.

But it has taken until today for the club to end speculation, and growing concern among fans, that it may have still been considering a step back from top flight hockey.

Flyers have played in the EIHL for the past six seasons, but have always maintained it had to be financially viable for the club to continue.

The statement said the past few weeks had been spent looking at ‘‘various formats and approaches’’ to creating a sustainable business plan for Flyers, but gave no indication what options were on the table and, presumably, discarded.

With no established second tier to drop into, Flyers ultimately faced the stark choice of staying in the EIHL, and all the running costs associated with it, or consider the prospect of a return to grassroots amateur SNL hockey.

Moves to create a Plan B for clubs struggling to run in the EIHL, and to allow teams in the minor leagues to step up. have been mooted for some time, but have yet to deliver a credible, sustainable model.

The statement confirmed the club’s participation in top flight hockey for a seventh season ‘‘following lengthy discussions with the EIHL and many internal discussions.’’

It said: ‘‘We have looked at various formats and approaches to create a business plan that is sustainable for the team in Fife.

‘‘Due to the increased costs that come with competing in this league we had to be confident that it would be sustainable for the season ahead and the foreseeable future.’’

Flyers have yet to confirm any signings or who will lead the team.

But it pledged: ‘‘We are working on putting together a competitive team for the 2017/18 season and will make signing announcements over the coming weeks, ahead of the new season.’’

Season tickets have yet to be finalised too.

The club said it was working on ticket options to cover the new 31-game league, conference and Challenge Cup format for 2017-18, and said previous season ticket holders would get first call on retaining their seats.

The concerns over running costs following the league’s expansion to include Guildford Flames and MK Lightning and the agreement to run with 14 imports were major issues for Fife and also Dundee Stars.

Both clubs put their plans on hold pending the outcome of the last league board meeting, and their PR statements were very similar in wording.

Last night Stars staged a very well attended fans’ forum to give an up to date briefing.

It included news of season ticket prices, the return of their major sponsor, but also underlined the significant rise in running costs and the impact it was having on the club’s owners.

The ice hockey season faces-off at the start of September.