210319 | Support
The Sports Minister has announced that elite, national and regional ice hockey will receive an unprecedented £2.7 million of Government funding in the latest round of the Sport Winter Survival Package.
The support will be formed of £2.3 million in loans and grants provided to four English clubs within the Elite Ice Hockey League: the Sheffield Steelers, Nottingham Panthers, Manchester Storm and Coventry Blaze.
The elite clubs with help from amongst others our arena in Nottingham and local MP Lilian Greenwood have been lobbying for support and this latest confirmation means top level ice hockey will be played this season after all.
£400,000 in grants will also be provided to the English Ice Hockey Association and English clubs in the National Ice Hockey League.
For the past 20 years ice hockey has been the biggest attended indoor sport in the UK, and is the third most regularly attended sport in terms of spectators. However as a result of the public health measures necessary to contain the coronavirus pandemic and the financial uncertainty these have caused, the Elite Ice Hockey League opted not to run the 2020/21 season.
The funding will cover essential costs necessary for the sport’s survival and to get back playing, including the launch of the 2021 Elite Series.
Formed of the four aforementioned clubs and taking place from 3 April - 3 May in Nottingham, the mini-series - which will be streamed online - will allow fans to support their team and help the Great Britain men’s national ice hockey team in their preparations for the IIHF World Championship later this year.
The funding has already allowed some National Ice Hockey League clubs to also resume action, supporting local ice rinks in the process.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said:
“This unprecedented support for ice hockey will act as a lifeline for the sport and ice rinks across the country. The reality is that without stepping in, it would have meant 18 months of no live action.
“Visibility is important to inspire the next generation, so I’m delighted that we’ve been able to work with the relevant bodies to develop a new proposal that supports the highest level of the sport through the Elite Series, and has also given clubs at regional level the confidence to return to the ice.”
Tony Smith, Chairman of the Elite Ice Hockey League, on behalf of the four clubs involved in the Elite Series, said:
“The UK’s top professional ice hockey league – the Elite Ice Hockey League – is thrilled to be able to get back on the ice with the backing from amongst others: the teams, the government and (when the action starts) the massive army of fans that follow us.
“In an ever changing landscape caused by the pandemic it is testament to the collective power that everyone pulling together can bring that we are going to stage a four team top flight event which will give fans something to cheer. At the same time the best players in the country will get a chance to compete for a place on the ‘plane to the World Championships. Without this series the GB players could have landed badly underprepared for games against the world’s elite.
“A tremendous amount of work and commitment is going on to make this event happen and we thank everyone for their support."
This is the fourth tranche of funding to be announced from the Government’s £300 million Sport Winter Survival Package that is focused on helping those major spectator sports severely impacted by coronavirus restrictions survive the winter.