Public Meeting - 11/07/2003 - transcript

Monday, 14th July 2003

On Friday 11th July 2003, the Manchester Phoenix held a Public Meeting in the Great Hall of Manchester Town Hall. Heading the meeting was Neil Morris, assisted by Head Coach Rick Brebant and Andy Costigan.

This is a full transcript of the meeting provided by FOMIH Fan Liasion, Richard Allan. It may not be reproduced on other websites.

Manchester Phoenix and FOMIH Town Hall Meeting, 11th July 2003
Manchester Town Hall
7.30pm onwards

Neil Morris (NM)
Rick Brebant (RB)
Andy Costigan (AC)

Good evening and thanks for coming. I think the best thing is to do a quick walk back of where we’ve come from. Together we formulated the FOMIH association back in November, at the unfortunate demise of the last hockey club. The experience that I’ve brought to the table is based on my ability to successfully run a marketing communications house for the last twenty one years. I have also run and sold two other businesses at a profit during that time. I’ve got to say that in all honesty, the last six months have probably been the hardest six months of my life and at some points I sit in the garden at night and wonder “what am I doing this for?” However, I’m glad I’ve been involved and I’m glad of all the people I’ve met and worked with.

A bit of history. We formulated memberships for people that have been involved in ice hockey in Manchester and brought our fans together and got them to support efforts to create a new club. We started with some fundraising at Altrincham with the Aces, to make sure they could finish the season. As you probably know, the closure of the rink was imminent. So Manchester’s not had a good time. But fortunately the Aces did finish the season and finished well. They made a lot of us very proud.

We spent a lot of time rebuilding a relationship with and negotiating with SMG, This was very difficult because their confidence in ice hockey had been damaged by the liquidation of the previous club. We collated a lot of feedback on what you the fans, the customers, want from a club. Today FOMIH has over 500 full members and over 2300 Associated members who all signed up over the last five months. We have some excellent people working on the Steering Group, working very hard to bring things to fruition for us. The good news is that FOMIH gets stronger and takes on new members day by day.

To support what we have done, I opened a limited company called Freezing Point and put a substantial amount of money into it. Underneath Freezing Point are two divisions, the FOMIH organisation and the Phoenix Ice Hockey Club. The relationship is quite special - it is my belief that no hockey club ever in this country has had the resources to run professionally as a business. All of them have been under-resourced, a lot of them have been started with small resources and unfortunately one or two have collapsed. FOMIH now supports the hockey club by providing a profitable commercial backbone.

Friends Of Manchester Ice Hockey will run all the merchandise for this club, they will run all the away travel, the events, the fundraising, the distribution, the volunteers, all the IT the company needs, communications, memberships, season tickets, and will be a valuable part of this hockey club. It’s already a valuable part of this hockey club, and to be honest with you, without FOMIH there would be no hockey club.

We will expand on this over the coming weeks. We have vacancies at the moment for people to help us in the areas of merchandising and organising our volunteers and distribution. The latter is important, as one of the biggest problems you’ll find with any club in any sport is communicating with its fan base. It’s something our club is, unforunately, always criticised for. Distribution is very expensive - every time you send out a letter to several thousand people, you’re looking at a very big mailing bill, and unfortunately everybody doesn’t have computers so we can’t just e-mail people.

So we’re trying to set up a distribution network across the north-west so that we can distribute information quickly and efficiently. We’re also working on our customer liaison with fans, including block liaison, so that each block at the Arena has an organiser who knows how the away travel is done and what activities can help the club, what’s needed to help the club survive. We’re looking for people who can work as business liaisons – for example, in our last season, we had a disabled children’s charity come and nobody met them at the door. In the end one of our yellowcoats took them and put them somewhere. The kids didn’t know what was going on, they didn’t understand the game, and no one was there to help them. That is not going to be the type of club that we will have.

We’re going to go back out into the community, we’re going to do the school roadshows, we’re going to get out with the kids, get the schools involved, and hopefully put the club back where it was probably seven years ago.

As you know we’ve released membership schemes, with full memberships starting at the Bronze Level for a fifty pounds fee. This gets a member a twenty percent discount on their season ticket or fifteen percent on the gate. There is a Silver membership which gives exactly the same plus ten percent discount on merchandise and social activities. A step up from that is Gold which gives us all those things but also gives us ten percent discount on food and beverages in the Arena, which is also something new. All those who were former season ticket holders, if you send your season tickets back with your application, your membership will be upgraded to the next level up.

One of the things we will be doing is affiliated membership, for those who don’t want to go to full membership. This will be similar to what has been run in the past like a fan club, and basically there will be a fifteen pound charge which will give them access to all newsletters and club activities, and will give a discount on the away travel.

Okay, so the journey so far! Well, I’m not going to tell you any fibs. To be very honest with you, you the fans have been absolutely excellent. We’ve got to take on board that a lot of fans got burnt, that’s the terminology, nobody trusted what was going on, nobody believes what’s said. I’m sure you’ve all seen what’s happened over the previous months with the press and websites, you know - ‘we haven’t got the agreement with SMG’, ‘we haven’t got the club’. ‘Rick Brebant got killed in a car accident’ etc etc. This is the closest thing I could get to Rick Brebant! (pointing to Rick) - he does look an awful lot like him and he talks like him, so I thought ‘what the hell, he’ll do!’

The commercial support got burnt as well. They all paid for twelve months and got five games, they lost trust in the club, they lost trust in where we were going, and it’s been very difficult to rebuild all this. So what’s it all about?

(Phoenix Promo video screening)

That was just in case you’ve all forgotten what this was all about! That was also to show you that for the last six weeks we’ve been marketing the club, writing to all the commercial sponsors. There’s a brand new promotional brochure, with an overview of the club and a CD with all the commercial opportunities, packages, and the video you just watched. Our people have sent out over a thousand of these already, they make an average of fifty phone calls a day, and trust me they are contacting the world.

It’s been a long journey for me, and officially tonight I stand down as Chairman of FOMIH. I can’t carry on doing what I’m doing, it’s taking far too much of my time, what with running a commercial marketing house as well, the hours are too much. So I have interviewed three people to take over as General Manager of FOMIH, and I am pleased to announce that Keith Woodcock will be taking over for the future.

The other reason that I’ve decided to stand down is quite straightforward. There is now a conflict of interests, in the fact of how the club is run and my involvement with the club. A lot of people ask us, who is behind the club and who are the three investors? I’m going to be very honest with you because you deserve it - there are no other investors. The two other guys walked away, with all the bad press and everything that was going on the websites. They read the press, they read what the fans were printing, and they said I would never get the fans back, I would never bring commercial sponsors to the table and that hockey was dead in Manchester. So I went to the bank and I borrowed the money, and I am the only guy. (Round of applause)

I’m not going to tell you any lies, in everything that I’ve been involved in, in business, over the last twenty years, this is probably the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. I took it for two reasons, really – one: because of you people and the belief I have in the support Manchester has, and two: the belief I have in this club and I believe that with these guys here we can bring you a great hockey club again. I believe that we will grow from strength to strength with the partnership with FOMIH, I think it’s a really important partnership and I believe it will go from strength to strength.

Phoenix will be playing out of Europe’s most prestigious and successful arena - it is the best arena in Europe, it’s the only arena we want to play out of. We signed an agreement with the Arena to play 31 games out of the MEN Arena, so whatever you listen to, whatever is said, I signed the agreement and I gave them a rather large, no, extremely large, deposit. Trust me, we will be playing hockey through the season. For the first time we get a discount for FOMIH members on food and beverages, which I think is a really good deal for us. Myself and the team believe we’ve got the best list of fixtures that we’ve ever had from day one of hockey - we’ve got sixteen Sunday games and twelve Friday games. It’s important for the growth of our youngsters that we play at weekends. There will be a percentage of the food and beverage sales credited back to the club, and although it’s taken us a while, we believe we’ve negotiated the best contract we’ve ever had and the people who’ve seen it have been involved from day one. My company, by the way, were involved in the opening of the Arena, which is how I got involved with Dave Biggar, so he has a lot to answer for, trust me!

We also have use of the video wall, which is something else we’re really happy about! (Applause)

Okay, Elite League - let’s get the big bits out of the way! Why the Elite League - good question! In my opinion there was a lot of things wrong with the ISL. I don’t think it would be right or fair for me to go into detail. However, the main thing as I’m told by the fans, is it stopped the growth of our talent in the UK. Our youngsters, our good talent, couldn’t play hockey because it was all benches of imports and I think that’s bad for our sport in this country. So what about BNL? In my opinion, the BNL has just as many problems as the ISL. So we decided to go with the Elite League. When I went into the first meeting, they literally got a great big A2 piece of paper and stuck it on the wall - no projectors, no presentations, just a great big piece of paper, and asked the twelve clubs who were at the first meeting to make the league. Andy (Costigan) and I had talked on the way down, and had a bit of a laugh about it - Andy asked what sort of quota of British players I was going to suggest. I said we really need to get our British kids playing, so I thought I’d maybe ask for five, but we’d settle for two. I think we should get the British kids playing with the imports, it opens up the ice and it’s the most exciting hockey I’ve ever seen. At the meeting, I suggested maybe four or six Brits playing with us. They put it on the board, and now we have four or six Brits playing with us! So for me, despite all the criticisms about the Elite League, I found those people around that table to be good, to be very proactive and I have enjoyed being with the. I think this is going to be a great league, that’s why I decided to play in it. There are some other reasons, like it has the teams we want to play against, and of course the small matter of beating Sheffield! (Applause)

So we went for a new league, for a new start, a fresh start, and something we believed in. There’s a couple more things I think need to explain. When the idea came to put all sixteen teams into one league; great idea, but did anyone think about commerciality? I’ve already had angry ‘little’ clubs ring me, telling me that I’m trying to force my way into their league just so I can do what we did in the first season and thrash them twenty three nil, I’m out of order. Well, it isn’t just about big teams playing little teams and beating them by big scores. How would you like to be a small team and have your team decimate my team every week fifteen nil, twenty three nil? You’ll lose your home support. It’s not fair to those clubs. One of those clubs rang me and said “If Manchester were in the same league as us, that’s great commercially because you’re probably going to bring fifteen hundred fans to my place. The problem is, I’ve only got fifteen hundred seats and I’ve got fifteen hundred of my own fans, so you wouldn’t be able to come in. Then when we come and see you we’ll probably only bring about thirty fans.” To an arena that can hold over seventeen thousand people, thirty extra fans isn’t going to give us commerciality and sustain the level of hockey. It’s just not going to work. So we went back to Ice Hockey UK with a proposal for them to consider. We said it was a good idea to put all the teams in one league, we need to bring them all together, but the best thing to do is divide it into 3 conferences, North, Central and South. In the Northern Conference, you’d have all the Scottish teams with Newcastle, in the Central you’d have the teams that nobody else wants to play, such as Manchester, Sheffield, Belfast, Cardiff, Coventry and Nottingham, and in the Southern Conference you’d have all the other teams playing. Teams would play everybody in their own conference three times home and away and everyone else just once. We thought that was a good way forward, but as you probably all saw in the press, it was refused. Ice Hockey UK didn’t seem to want to discuss it, they just wanted everyone playing in one league on one level footing. I don’t believe it’s that simple to do.

So what did we decide to do? Let’s clear this up. Two weeks ago, all the clubs in the proposed Elite league joined the Premier League. Our sport could not afford to carry on with the in-fighting and the trouble. We weren’t going to get affiliated as a league, as far as IHUK were concerned it was join the BNL or don’t play hockey. Well, we were going to pay hockey anyway – IHUK used the word ‘rogue’, but we preferred the word ‘independent’, like the NHL. Nevertheless, this would have caused even more trouble, so we decided to join the Premier League of the English Ice Hockey Association. The Premier League will run with two divisions, the top division will be the Elite Division, and the lower division will be the Premier Division where the current Premier teams will play. We are trying with the English Ice Hockey Association to formulate a middle division which will give us a national league, and that will give the ability, to grow ice hockey in this country from grass roots level and roller hockey levels all the way up through three divisions to the Elite Division. We believe this is the way forward. That’s where we decided to go, and that’s how we will play ice hockey. To summarise, the Elite League didn’t get affiliated, however all the clubs in the Elite League joined the Premier League and will play in the Premier League, which is affiliated. Therefore, Manchester is an accepted, affiliated club, end of argument - works for me!

I believe that what is now needed, is the right person, employed at Ice Hockey UK, to develop a future for this sport, and I believe it can be done. It can be done in every other business in the world, so it should be able to be done in our business. We need to work together for the sport, while at the same time making a platform for all clubs to flourish. So there’s a job vacancy as far as I’m concerned for somebody, and we need the right man or lady to get this sorted out. Trust me, all this business about the BNL fighting with Elite League clubs - they’re not. We don’t have any problem with BNL clubs, we get on with most of them. In fact, we will very probably be playing some of the BNL clubs prior to the regular season. They think they’re going to whip our arse, and we’re going to show them how mistaken they really are!

I believe that in Manchester, our support from the fans is second to none. I believe that our support from commerce is building by the day, getting stronger and stronger. We have a great marketing team behind it, and we’ve now taken on board our first sponsors and advertisers - against the grain we’ve managed it! I have a press release here which I would like to read out to you. This happened this week and we are launching it tonight - one of our main joint sponsors who has come on board is NASN, they will be sponsoring Manchester Phoenix, and here’s their press release:

“North American Sports Network is delighted to confirm that it has formed a commercial partnership with Manchester Phoenix covering the next twelve months. As Europe’s only TV channel dedicated to American sports, NASN prides itself on forming partnerships with the most exciting organisations in the world of ice hockey, baseball, basketball and American football. We are thrilled to join up with the Phoenix who are so positive and energetic. NASN and Phoenix are building a relationship which will allow the digital subscription channel and the club to promote each other in a way which we believe will be of great benefit to each other. As supporters of grass roots sports we wish British ice hockey in general and Manchester Phoenix in particular the best of good fortune in the following season.”


We also formed a partnership this week with another large company that has been involved and helped us along the way. They have reformulated themselves and have entered into some very big commercial partnerships. They are called Think-Data and they have also issued a press release which I will read out to you. It was released to the press this morning.

“Manchester-based database marketing specialists Think-Data have stuck a sponsorship deal with the region’s top ice hockey team Manchester Phoenix. Neil Morris and Think-Data MD Keith Adams have agreed a seventy five thousand pound deal which will help Phoenix attract and retain profitable customers through data-driven direct marketing. Elite level ice hockey in Manchester has brought nearly one point five million customers into Europe’s premier event venue the MEN Arena since it’s introduction some seven years ago. Unfortunately little is known about these valuable customers, their behaviour, attitude or personal preferences as this has never been a part of the previous owner’s marketing strategy. “Think-Data will help Phoenix build a profile of it’s customers so it can effectively communicate with each one as an individual on a regular basis. This helps to build loyalty and helps turn a customer into a fan, the lifeblood of any sport” states Keith Adams. Neil Morris, Managing Director of the Phoenix, is delighted. “The timing of this could not be better, I’ve been looking for ways of raising the profile of the sport and increasing attendance and loyalty. Manchester has a solid base as the best supported ice hockey club in the UK, however we are ambitious. We believe we can go about getting more people interested in our sport. Our home, the MEN Arena, seats seventeen and a half thousand people, so we’ve got plenty of room!” [PRESS RELEASE CONTINUED]


Although I don’t have the press release, I can announce that in the last hour, Hoodpoint Data Applications have also come onboard, so we now have three strong joint sponsors, which I think is great news.


We are negotiating with a further four large companies and we are quietly confident and hopeful that we will be able to get those onboard. Over the next few weeks, you’ll see some really positive results for the club. We’re also getting involved in a sponsorship deal with a large newspaper, which hasn’t come to fruition yet, a large radio network, and I believe these are going to make a real difference to the club. We already have a substantial base of local businesses who are supporting the club, and some of them are here tonight, and I really do thank you as well. There are too many to actually name so I’m really sorry I can’t go through them all, but without your help we wouldn’t be on the map.

To give you an idea as to what’s going on in the background at the moment, we’re about to start sending things around the schools and the sports shops, there’s a poster campaign about to be started with a series of being printed by the thousand; we’re going to take a couple of buses; we’re looking at taking some ad hoardings in different areas in the north west, possibly a taxi and definitely using radio. We’re going out to the schools again, doing a community roadshow. We’re putting posters up in the schools and getting the kids back involved. We’ve just signed an agreement with the British Inline Puck Hockey Association, so we’re going to be supporting the hockey boys, getting our coach involved, getting our players involved, supporting these kids. We’re going out to shopping malls, doing launches, going to all the local clubs for local affiliations. In fact I’ve got a very simple plan - I’m going to do what we did in year one, it worked for me, it worked for Biggar, I don’t know why they changed it!

We’re going play hockey against some good opposition, and we’re not going to roll over and die, we’ll take care of that! So that’s what we’re doing in the background, there’s an awful lot going on. I just want to thank you all for your involvement in the club so far, you’ve been absolutely tremendous. As I said earlier, I wouldn’t have come this far without you and without the belief in this club. I want to thank all the people that are involved in the steering group, they’ve been doing an absolutely fantastic job in the background - without these people I wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t have a club back.


That’s pretty much all from me. I know Rick Brebant is going to bring this club a lot of success, I have a lot of confidence in him. Rick’s knows the kind of committed hockey we want. He knows what we’re talking about, he knows what to get and how to get it to work for him. Rick and I already have a good relationship, we’re very straight with each other. I admire Rick for getting involved in Manchester. He probably doesn’t know that I know there were three other clubs after him. I was very straight with Rick about everything that’s happened to us, all the bad things and Rick’s quite capable of looking at the websites. He still decided to come to Manchester, and I think that shows tremendous character.


Ladies and Gentlemen, Rick Brebant.


First of all I’d like to thank everyone for coming along this evening, I can think of some better things to do on a Friday night but it’s nice to see everyone and the support that we have here. I think the young gentlemen behind the screen here have been sitting around long enough, so I’ll introduce them first. The people that were at the training camps saw these hockey players giving 100% all through the practice. I was very impressed, especially after the first camp see how they skated, how much energy they had and basically, more than anything, to see their potential. With a little bit of time spent with them, and time playing games, they could play in this league. I think a lot of these guys will be able to make a career with this new league. Not all the players could make it tonight, but her are the ones that are. They will be involved with this club this year, and hopefully we can develop them to where they’re contributing not just for this club but for hockey in general. Thanks guys!

(Introduction of five players. Applause)

Everyone wants to know who we’ve signed so far. Well, I’m someone who keeps everything close to my chest. When you negotiate with players, the worst thing is for another team to find out and offer an extra twenty five pounds. If I go up, all of a sudden my budget is a little smaller. So I keep basically all my negotiations to myself and nobody else really knows other than Neil and Andy. We’ve signed Mike Morin and Dwight Parrish. Last night we agreed a Canadian centre and his name will be released in due time. We have to maximise the press that we get. So basically when we sign players we try to get two or three press coverages out of each player. This keeps us in the paper and shows that we’re moving in the right direction. All I can say about our three players that we have signed is that they’re all hard working, they give a hundred percent all the time, and they’re club-orientated. One thing I’m trying to create, and I think it’s very important, is a family atmosphere, where the players feel that they’re involved, that they have a sense of responsibility, not only to the club but to the fans. I think that in return it will also get the fans feeling a sense of loyalty to the club.

I know the people here have loyalty, but we need a bigger fan base who also feel that they’re a part of this big family. I think that people are going to go the extra mile for each other, both on and off the ice. All the players will give a hundred percent, have good energy, work hard, and never say no. We currently have another two contracts on offer and I’m very positive that will also be signed. Not one contract has yet been refused, every one I’ve offered they’ve taken, so it’s a good sign that things are on the right move and I feel very positive about the way things are going.

NM: One other thing we need to announce and which is about to go out in a press release as there’s a bit of confusion about it – the Phoenix will use and enter the ice from the opposite bench at the Arena from now on. There is a reason for that - when hockey went away from Manchester, SMG never thought that it was coming back so they knocked all the changing rooms down! There is a small changing room at the former Storm side and a nice, big luxury changing room on the other side which we’ve had completely kitted out. So we’ve moved to the other side and we’re going to give the opposing team the mall changing room. If any of you are buying tickets to sit behind your team, please don't sit behind the wrong one!

There’s one other thing, before the questions come up. People have rung me and asked me why I’m closing the ends. I’m not closing the ends. However, the feeling in SMG America, that having the whole lower bowl open spoiled the atmosphere, and that having everybody spread out didn’t work for them, and they incurred an lot more cleaning costs and staff costs, and we’re trying to ensure that we run this together as a partnership. What they’ve said to me is that if I can prove to them that I can bring more than four thousand people back into the building they’ll open the ends. I can tell you something, it won’t be long before we’ve got more than four thousand hockey fans back in Manchester. (Applause) Things happen that you don’t always agree with, but, at the end of the day, it’s difficult when I’ve got people involved with the previous club putting reports in the paper saying I’ll be lucky to get twelve hundred people in. That doesn’t help with the Americans, so I’ve got to go back there and prove that I’m not a complete lunatic and that hockey is still alive and well in Manchester. And we will do this, we will bring hockey to life!

(Opened to the floor for questions)

Q: Rick, are you retired?

RB: Definitely. The only way I will even think about putting on a pair of skates is if we run into injury problems. I’ll do anything that will help make this club win, but it’s more important that I handle the coaching and make sure that the team is best prepared for each game. I’ve been through it once, I’ve learned from that experience and I won’t do it again.

Q: Firstly, with regards to membership - I’ve taken out a membership and would like to ask whether there will be any confirmation of membership, and when that is likely to be?

NM: We’ve decided, rightly or wrongly, to print all the membership cards at the same time as the season tickets simply because of the way we’re going about it. Yes there will be something to show that you are bronze, silver or gold, and yes it will be coming out in the next few weeks.

Q: Regarding plexiglass - we had a lot of problems where we were sitting with dirty plexiglass, it was interfering with our view of the games.

NM: I’ve spoken with SMG at great lengths about this, they are having all the plexiglass inspected, they are replacing the glass and cleaning the glass. I have a good relationship with SMG and if I can show that this club is successful, I think they’ll replace the lot.

Q: Rick, how difficult is it to attract new guys to Manchester with all the bad stuff, I know some of them read the internet and some of that has been dreadful. What’s their feelings like, do they want to take the chance?

RB: You know what? I’ve had no problems. We’re starting from new, we talked about this way back, how are you going to handle it where the fans used to boo you, and I said it’s all in the past! I’m looking forward to the future and the potential this club has, and you know what? As much as the work that’s been done by all the volunteers and staff and so on, we need more support, and we’re going to have to try and go out there and get new support, we need the people to support this club and feel like a part of its family. That’s how I want it. In terms of how I’m going to coach, I’m looking for team orientated guys that feel like they can be a part of the family and will give a hundred percent every night. So far I’ve not had any problems.

Q: I’ve heard we want to get students back. Are we doing a reduction for students?

NM: We are allowing all students to come in at the concession rate so long as they have a current full time student union card or similar identification. We want everyone to come back to ice hockey in Manchester.

Q: (Question about match night entertainment plans)

NM: I have a couple of really good presenters that I’ve worked with over the past couple of years, and when we’ve finished interviewing and listening to their strategy for a game night, we’ll decide on who we’re going to utilise. We’re going to be bringing some good, exciting game nights back, and we’ll be having some fun together! Trust me, I haven’t gone through this for it not to be fun!

Q: My only concern is the MEN Arena. Assuming we get through this season, which I hope we will, are there any long term plans for a smaller arena which will then become Phoenix’s home arena?

NM: We are in talks with some developers about the future of ice hockey in Manchester, but we have taken the liberty of taking the option on a second year at the MEN, because we need to play ice hockey somewhere. If we can get the right people involved, we need to bring grass roots hockey back to Manchester. Just playing at elite level is not good enough for the sport, it’s not good enough for our local lads and talent, and once we are up and running we will be on a platform to market going forward to a purpose built arena.

AC: It’s like Neil said, if the fans come back and support this team, it will generate more interest commercially, and who knows? A builder might come along with a plot of land to find space enough to build a new rink as opposed to a new arena - that’s everybody’s long-term plan. But a big factor in that is the success of this club, and the biggest sign of success is increasing numbers week on week watching the team.

NM: I think the only thing I can ask you as fans is that everybody here tonight obviously supports this club whole-heartedly and I really do appreciate that from you all, but I must ask you all to be ambassadors for the club, I must ask you all to promote this club, promote this sport and help us to grow. In Manchester so far we’ve managed to lead from the front. We’ve come from being the most unlikely team to play ice hockey to being the first one to first base, and we need to lead now and drop some of the negativity that’s been around us for the past nine months. We need to overcome these obstacles and we need to do this together. People that are disrespectful to this hockey club and being very negative about the sport in Manchester should go and watch football or something and stop going on hockey sites, because they’re not good for hockey and they’re not good for this club. I’m sorry but we do this together. I can’t do this alone - I really do need your help.

Q: I’d just like to thank Rick for bringing Mike Morin back. Just a quick question for Neil - on the first evening, the first home game, if there are a lot of fans coming will those ends be opened so we don’t have to turn fans away?

NM: I tell you something - in Manchester we will never turn hockey fans away. We will grow as a club, and we will prove that this club is alive and kicking with a lot of hockey fans, I promise you that.

AC: SMG, as Neil said earlier, have said that if we can prove there are enough people to satisfy corporate USA that those ends need to be opened then they will do it. If we could have the lower bowl full on opening night, that would be fantastic and will send a message that Britain wants hockey and Manchester loves hockey big-time! SMG are committed to that, they will open the lower bowl totally if we can prove that there are enough people to fill those seats.

NM: It is tough, I can’t see into the future. It’s really difficult to give an argument to the guy who says we’re only going to get twelve hundred in. I can’t guarantee that we’ll get more than twelve hundred. My gut instinct tells that that it’s totally rubbish but I can’t prove it to anyone else. I had a guy ring me last week and he said to me “I want to buy a season ticket off you but you need to give me a guarantee that this hockey club will be here next year”. I said I can’t give that guarantee; he asked why not. I said that no big company in this country can give guarantees whether they’re going to be trading next year. It’s all down to how professional you are, how hard you work, and whether your customer loyalty grows. I wouldn’t have put my money into this club if I didn’t think we were going to be playing hockey this time next year. Funny thing is, all these people who say they aren’t going to buy a ticket until I prove there’s going to be a hockey club - do you know what that means? There’s only a hockey club if people buy the product, there’ll only be a hockey club if people buy tickets!

Q: Just a question about NUS cards. I’m a mature student and the only reason kids get NUS cards is so they can get cheap beer. Being a parent I didn’t bother, so will a college card be acceptable?

NM: That will be fine, I have some student experts advising me on all the common usages, so that will be fine! Trust me, I have employed the right people around me to protect me - I have Costigan here!

Q: Will you be bringing John Hammond back?

NM: I don’t really know the answer to that at the moment to be honest with you. Just so you know, John has worked for me. We know each other pretty well, and John is very busy, which is one of the reasons why he couldn’t fit in the amount of hockey nights that the last owner wanted. John does a huge number of presentations. We’re not sure at this point whether it’s good to have two presenters and to be swapping and changing from one to the other, so to be honest with you we haven’t made that decision yet but I will bear in mind the love you have for the man!

Q: Are you finding a problem with work permits? I believe the government are now clamping down on them.

RB: I haven’t applied yet, but I don’t foresee any problems.

Q: Can season tickets be paid for by credit card? On the website it says we can use Paypal but can we use our credit cards over the phone?

NM: Not at the moment as we are not registered for credit cards, so the only way for credit cards is through the website I’m afraid. Remember the option of paying by cheque in two instalments, the second one being a post-dated cheque for December.

Q: You’ve mentioned the change in benches, can you clarify the away blocks for away fans?

NM: We’re allocating the away fans Blocks 101 and 105.

Q: If the ends open up, what happens to those who had season tickets at the ends and have moved this season?

NM: Good question. Anybody who was in the end blocks who reseats into another block will get first choice on your old seat, if, no when, we reopen the ends.

Q: Now that the Elite League has changed, is the TV deal still on?

NM: Yes. At the moment the TV deal is still on. We’re negotiating with Sky Television and the programme will probably expand from the half-hour slot to an hour slot, which is good news. It’s not been signed off yet so I probably shouldn’t discuss it, or I’ll get smacked! There is a certain hockey club that we’re not far away from that could be showing games on NASN, but I wouldn’t tell too many other clubs about it!

Q: What sort of bench are we looking at having? Ten forwards and six d?

RB: I guess there’s going to be eighteen on the bench, two goalies, five or six d, around ten forwards. At the end of the day we have eight British players and you add that on the the twelve imports, so the players that get on the bench will deserve it. I believe there’s a lot of talent, a lot of raw talent that will put in the hard work for the club.