Raiders' future still in the balance

By Clare Wall

Thursday, April 30, 2009

 

AROUND 50 Wightlink Raiders fans crammed into Ryde Arena's bar last night (Thursday) to hear the latest on the future of the ice hockey side.

But, with news of more turbulence within the English Premier League (EPL), the emergency meeting was less about how to raise the £30,000 needed to stay in the EPL, but more about whether it would be more beneficial in the long term, to drop down a league.

Just before the meeting, news broke that the Romford Raiders were likely to fold as their management team pulled out of running ice hockey in the area, and Elite League side Manchester Phoenix announced they were to drop down to the EPL.

So, with Wightlink Raiders looking like being an even bigger minnow in the EPL, the management team of Geoff Underwood and Steve Price discussed with fans the possibility of dropping down to the first division of the English National League, to make the Raiders a potentially more sustainable and competitive side.

Long-standing supporters expressed their disappointment with the thought their side would play at a lower level of hockey, but seemed resigned to the fact it may be the best way forward for the team.

Dare Barry told Underwood and Price: "You guys know about the money and you have got to put us in the best league to sustain us. And if that means taking a step backwards, then so be it."

Steve Porter added: "It really is head versus heart here."

Underwood and Price revealed that around £7,000 of the £30,000 had been raised, including donations from fans from other teams in the EPL, and said a potential sponsor was currently in negotiations, although nothing concrete had been agreed.

They added a decision about which league to join had to be made within the next two weeks, in order for a player-coach to be appointed and signings to start being announced.

Price said: "We need £30,000 to make a competitive side and to stay in the EPL. But with the likes of Manchester and Guildford, and Peterborough and Milton Keynes strengthening, we are also wondering if we can compete.

"It will be like the British National League of two or three years ago. These teams are coming in with big wage bills of around £4,000 a week, our wage bill last year was around £2,200. So we are asking you for help and ideas to raise this money."

The team''s popular 100 Club, a monthly lottery-style draw, attracted a number of new members on the night, and several people pledged to sponsor players next year if the Raiders remain in the EPL.

The management team pledged to keep fans informed of any decision about which league they will play in, and any sponsorship news, via the club website www.wightlinkraiders.com

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