WIGHTLINK Raiders are no longer an English Premier League side, after the team’s management applied to move the side to the English National Ice Hockey League (ENL) next season.
Even though a potential sponsorship deal is still under negotiation, the management team of Steve Price and Geoff Underwood announced today (Wednesday) they were applying for ENL status to allow them to sign players and a player-coach.
In a statement on the club’s official website, Mr Underwood said: “Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to secure sufficient advertising and sponsorship to enable us to build a squad that can compete well in the EPL.
“We owe it to the fans and the players to have a team that can compete and give good results on a regular basis, and without the extra financial support of a big sponsor, we simply cannot afford to run a team at this level.”
The decision has been influenced in part by the news Elite league sides Basingstoke Bison and Manchester Phoenix are dropping down to the EPL. Both have far larger budgets than the Raiders.
With these sides joining the likes of rich clubs like Guildford, Milton Keynes and Slough, it has made it more difficult for the Raiders — and other clubs such as Bracknell, Telford and Romford — to be truly competitive.
Mr Underwood said: “If we don’t take action now, there won’t be a Raiders ice hockey team next season.
“Some people are worried about us dropping a division”, he said. “But we look at it in a positive way. The team will be in a better financial position and we can draw in local talent, which helps to create greater interest on and around the Island. There is also a much greater opportunity for the juniors to make the step from junior level ice hockey up to the senior team.
"Lastly, we will be playing at a level where we can be more competitive, so hopefully our fans will look forward to us winning more often.”