Ice Hockey: Bees on the brink as backer pulls out
December 12, 2007
BRACKNELL BEES fans were today desperately trying to save their club from folding following David Taylor’s decision to step down as their financial backer.
Player-coach Dwight Parrish believes there may be only a matter of days to prevent the break-up of a team that is currently just one point off the top of the English Premier League.
And captain Adam Bicknell fears that unless a new benefactor can be found before the New Year, the club could be in danger of going under.
Fans are being urged to attend a crisis meeting, which has been organised by Supporters Club chairman Stuart Robinson in Honies bar at Bracknell ice rink tomorrow (8pm).
Taylor stepped in to save the club in 2005 after its multi-millionaire founder John Nike withdrew his backing.
|The story so far..|
Nike 'will not bankroll' Bees again - 29/11/07
Taylor faces battle to keep Bees flying high - 23/11/07
I'll pay vows debt row agent - 22/11/07
Bees strike off as winning run ends - 13/11/07
Bees in threat to go on strike - 7/11/07
But Taylor encountered financial problems this season with players threatening to go on strike over unpaid wages.
He insisted, though, that there would be no further problems following last month’s sale of Elite League Basingstoke Bison, which was a bigger drain on his income.
But fears for Bees’ future were raised again when Taylor closed the last of his three estate agents offices four weeks ago. And after complaining of coming under pressure from a section of fans, he and his wife Sharon yesterday announced they were quitting.
A statement on the club’s website read: ‘Following a sustained campaign over the last two months orchestrated by various senior people from within the team, the supporters club and others associated with the Bracknell Bees, Sharon and I have decided to capitulate to their demands and have relinquished our operating licence for the Bracknell Bees ice hockey team with immediate effect.
‘We have been the subject of a lot of very personal and derogatory comments posted on the various websites over the last couple of months by so-called supporters of the club.
‘The time has come for all those who have been involved in all the back-stabbing and the whispering campaigns to back their words with actions and money as they now have the opportunity to have what they have wanted.
‘We have been very proud to have been associated with such a great club over the past two-and-a-half seasons and up to recently have enjoyed every minute of it.
‘However we have reached a time when the well-being of our family must come first.
‘Mistakes were made by us with respect to our involvement in Basingstoke. With hindsight we should not have taken the club over without doing a lot more research and asked a lot more questions in relation to the finances.
‘Our apologies go to all those at Basingstoke, the players, supporters and especially to Ryan (Aldridge) who we placed in an impossible position as a result of our mismanagement of Basingstoke.
‘We have enjoyed a high level of support from the John Nike Group in all this and want to publicly thank both John Nike and Martin Weddell for this support.
‘We thank everyone who has given us some much needed words of support recently. The future of the Bees now sits in their hands.’
Bees are due to travel to Romford for an EPL Cup qualifier on Sunday.
And although the players are owed between two and three weeks’ wages, coach Parrish intends to honour the fixture.
“I think the guys will play. But I cannot speak for all of them. They have been through a lot,” he said.”
Parrish also lost money when two of his previous clubs, Cardiff and Manchester, went under.
The players were planning to meet last night to discuss their next move.
“Things are going so well on the ice, it is a real shame,” added Parrish, who has guided Bees into the semi-finals of the EPL Cup and second place in the league.
“But this is a business and these things happen. The support of the fans has been great and if anyone is interested in helping I would urge them to get in touch.”
Bees’ wage bill is thought to be in excess of £2,000 per week and on top of that, there are club cars and players housed.
For American Parrish and the club’s three other imports, Czech aces Jan Melichar and Michal Kanka, and Slovakian Peter Jasik, ice hockey is their main source of income. And they are the players, who will be hit the hardest, says skipper Bicknell, rather than the English players, who are either in education or have other jobs.
Bicknell, a PE teacher, revealed that some players have had to pay for their own equipment and said: “It has been a circus off ice.
“We have almost been playing for free. We play because we love it and that is why we have managed to stay up the top of the table. But for some people it is their livelihoods.
Bees would usually be expected to draw a big crowd for their next two home games against Telford on December 23 and against their title-chasing Slough Jets on Boxing Day.
Bicknell said: “I think most of the guys will stick together until the new year. But if nothing is sorted by January 1, players are going to look elsewhere.
“I hate to be negative, but to be available for the end-of-season play-offs you have to have played 20 games for a club.
“And guys would have to move next month to be eligible – and the transfer deadline is the end of January anyway.”
Bicknell urged any prospective benefactors to act soon, adding: “Without all the financial stress we have been under recently, I think you would find we would be an even better team.”
Although rink owner Nike has insisted he has no intentions of running an ice hockey club again, Bicknell said: “After being so heavily involved with the club, it would be nice to think he may help us – with it being Christmas and all.”
Bicknell added: “It is a great club and David Taylor did a great job when he took over. I feel sorry for him.”