End of an Era

Saturday, 14th January 2017

The last couple of years have been very tough for everybody in our organisation. The one thing that has kept me going is the hope and promise of a building in Manchester and the absolutely brilliant human beings that make up the Phoenix support. As you all know we have run into commercial problems over the last few weeks. The club did get 2 weeks behind with its wages with our 4 senior British players and the 3 imports, which the guys were fantastic about and agreed to carry on while I got a new investor involved. Unfortunately that new investor would only put in half of the money that the club needed to finish the season. I paid all of the wages last week for everyone except Tony from the last of my family’s savings.

I then needed to try to reshape the business quickly. My partners had lost the appetite for the temporary rink and just wanted to focus on the land and siting for the permanent building. That made sense when, after the Hillkirk Street planning delays, we would need to get the 2.5 million pounds investment back in 4 rather than 5 years; an impossible task. As everybody involved, including Manchester City Council, pointed out, it was just too big a risk. I therefore went to Silver Blades in an attempt to get a temporary deal to allow the team to be closer to Manchester and try and make it more accessible to the fan base to watch their team. We made the deal to play in Widnes. I also made the very difficult choice to ask the imports to leave. Tony and I worked very hard placing them with other teams and we did allow them to have discussions days in advance of the announcement. It was not what I wanted but I had to cut the budget to keep the team alive. Unfortunately the imports make up a very large proportion of your playing staff budget.

Obviously the response to this news and other comments made by ex-players of our club caused a social media holocaust and the meltdown began. The new investors asked for an extra 48hrs due diligence. They asked for a meeting first thing yesterday morning, Friday 13th January, to which they brought a folder full of the adverse social media comments and accusations. It was a horrible meeting, that along with the events of the previous days just suffocated my commitment and drive to carry on. At the end of the meeting, they said they would consider the matter further and come back to me in an hour. When they called me back they said they were happy with all my answers and the accompanying documentation I had provided that quashed all of the unfounded accusations. However as a construction company they not only wanted to be involved with the new build here in Manchester they also wanted to align their brand with another brand with an exciting and highly visible profile. They said that Manchester Phoenix now has good visibility for the wrong reasons. Although they still want to build a new ice facility in Manchester; after this week, politically, they could not be involved with the Phoenix.

Contrary to what certain people will think and report about me, I won’t play on or ask anybody to support me, if it is not financially viable to do so. I believe that this may have been my last roll of the dice with The Manchester Phoenix; I have looked in the hat and there are just no more rabbits for me to pull out.

There are some individuals looking at putting together a rescue package for the club over the weekend which I will help with all I can. I don’t want any money for the club and hope a solution can be found the finish the season.

I am sorry I seem to have made so many enemies on social media, while all I have tried to do is protect and advance the club in which I have invested more than 600k over the last 14 years. No doubt they will still criticise me while I lie in the centre of a squared circle. At least I have brought them some enjoyment, as well as keeping Ice Hockey going for the good people of Manchester, whichever team you support.

May I finish with a few thanks. My players. They are a wonderful bunch of people that I am very proud to have worked with; you guys have been fantastic; thank you.

My friend and most iconic member of British Ice Hockey, Tony Hand MBE, you have been outstanding. You and I share a special bond of honour and trust my friend.

The best equipment manager in Ice Hockey - Craig Cook, thank you.

The sponsors of this club especially Millington’s, J Davidson. Goodwin’s Coaches and all the back room staff at Dynamic Athlete Matters and our fantastic doctor Ken Vickers.

The marshals, the sellers and all the other volunteers on match night, you lot have been great.

I mean this from the bottom of my heart - the greatest Supporters Club I have ever worked with or come across. You team; I love you all; outstanding.

And lastly you the fans, you have been The Faithful. I will never forget all of you. I have had some fantastic times with you. Many of you feel like family and I am sorry if I have let you down. This is the first time I have ever looked to the corner for the towel. I just cannot go on. I really do love you all and will miss you all. I tried my best for all of us.


Neil Morris

Neil Morris

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