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Elite League: Scottish clubs face sustainability conundrum

(Image via Ian Coyle)

In the midst of another disappointing season in the Elite League (EIHL), Scotland’s three top-flight ice hockey clubs face what can only be described as a sustainability conundrum.

Glasgow Clan, Fife Flyers and Dundee Stars are having miserable campaigns in the EIHL and their future viability at that level is undoubtedly under threat.

A quick look at the latest round of results highlights how tough the trio of Scottish clubs are finding things at the moment.

They collectively played six games last weekend and won none. The results left Clan, Flyers and Stars filling the bottom three places in the table.

Given the size of their fanbase Clan should be one of the better clubs in the United Kingdom, but poor ownership is holding them back.

Saturday’s dismal 8-0 defeat at Belfast Giants highlighted how far they have fallen, while they fared little better the following day against Manchester Storm.

Fife Flyers are one of the most historic clubs in the United Kingdom, but their management remains stuck in the previous century.

Pre-season promises of improved engagement with Flyers fans have not come to fruition, and the on-ice product has largely been woeful.

The club’s failure to give British players a chance is not unique to Fife but rankles particularly heavily with their supporters.

Lumping the Stars in with the other two Scottish clubs is perhaps harsh, given that their demise is a more recent phenomenon.

The Stars were heading in the right direction under former general manager Omar Pacha, but things have quickly gone south since he exited the club.

Given the state of play with all three of Scotland’s EIHL clubs, questions must be asked about the wisdom in each of them remaining at that level.

The resurgence of Edinburgh Capitals in the Scottish National League (SNL) highlights why the trio should seriously consider their respective futures.

The Capitals were previously whipping boys in the EIHL, living beyond their means and becoming a laughing stock in UK ice hockey.

They have re-emerged further down the scale to good effect by cutting their cloth and playing at a more sustainable level.

With around 1,600 fans watching their most recent home game against Aberdeen Lynx, the Capitals have hit on a winning formula.

Whether Scotland’s three EIHL teams like it or not, things will not get any better for them at that level.

The gap between the haves and have-nots is widening, and each of them needs to start thinking about their future path.

By ending their association with the top flight, they may stop their fans from gravitating towards NHL live streams and embark on an exciting new future in a revised SNL set-up.

As the Capitals have demonstrated, playing at a lower level can be a positive move. Operational costs are lower and fans will engage if the on-ice product is positive.

Clan, Flyers and Stars are currently propping up the rest in the EIHL and maintaining their fanbases in the current economic climate is no easy task.

Dropping to a more sustainable level would not only be beneficial to each club but would also help to strengthen Scottish ice hockey in general.

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