Fife Flyers have until Thursday to make up their minds over playing in the Elite League next season.
The Kirkcaldy club has put its plans on hold amid concerns over the impact on budgets of changes to the conference system following the inclusion of Guildford Flames and MK Lightning.
But time is now running out.
The EIHL board meets on Thursday when it is decision time – for all concerned.
Neil Black underlined the stark choices when he spoke at the fans’ forum staged as part of the recent play-off finals weekend.
The owner of Braehead Clan and Nottingham Panthers was blunt: ‘’Absolute end date, for sure, is the board meeting.
‘’At that stage I’ll be honest – you are either in or you are out. If you do not like it, sorry, there is no alternative.’’
But sources at Flyers insist it is not as cut and dried as he made out, and they want other EIHL teams to look at the bigger picture and move towards helping out the teams which need the conference system.
They were designed to maximise local fixtures and ease travelling costs, and the change to six teams in each would result in fewer of the former, and more of the latter.
Flyers and Stars hope to persuade them to agree on three geographical conferences of four teams each – one for Scotland, the Midlands and the south – rather than its preferred option of two six-strong mini-leagues.
Reports have also suggested Edinburgh Capitals share their concerns, but the club has stayed quiet, neither publicly backing Fife and Dundee’s stance, or distancing itself from the speculation of a Scottish exodus from the EIHL which was rife throughout the play-off weekend.
It’s clear there is still a lot of jockeying for position going on behind the scenes – a phrase used at the forum by Neil Russell of Manchester Storm – but also that the league is now pushing for a commitment from each club.
And it is clear, the new two conference set-up IS ready to roll with the backing of some big players in the boardroom.
Black told the fans’ forum: ‘We didn’t have conferences for 17 years I owned Nottingham. We survived playing each other with the same number of games. Then we had conferences, and they were a good fix for localising games, cutting travel costs, and giving some help to officials.
‘’They were a good idea – but we need to accept we are never playing each other four and two. It’s finished. It ain’t happening again. ‘’
On the switch to two conferences of six he explained: ‘’There is no other way it fits. At 12 teams, it fits six and six.
‘’The format was pretty well set, based on the teams joining and they were voted in unanimously.’
And, although not naming Fife and Dundee – ‘’it won’t take long to work out which ones it is’’ – it was clear who his comments were aimed at when he added: ‘’It is absolutely ridiculous some clubs now, having voted them in and the format was only ever going to be two conferences of six, for them to suddenly afterwards decide they don’t like it.
I do not understand what this conversation is about. There is no other way it fits.
‘’At 12 teams it fits, six and six.’’
‘’It is slightly disappointing that people are now deciding they do not fancy playing each other three times.’’
Fife sources say the proposal for three conferences was also pitched to the EIHL newcomers before the alternative of two conferences was thrown into the mix.
Two sixes: A possible format ...
North: Fife, Flyers, Dundee Stars, Edinburgh Capitals, Braehead Clan, Manchester Storm, Belfast Giants
South: Sheffield Steelers, Nottingham Panthers, Coventry Blaze, MK Lightning, Guildford Flames, Cardiff Devils
Three fours: How the conferences could look ...
Scotland - Fife, Dundee, Braehead, Edinburgh
Midlands: Sheffield, Nottingham, Coventry, Manchester
South: Guildford, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, Belfast
Fans forum: To watch the fans’ forum, visit EIHL