Neil Morris online question & answer session - transcript

Thursday, 23rd June 2005

Following the decision to defer the return to active competition, Neil Morris, Managing Director of Manchester Phoenix, held an online Q&A session in conjunction with ManchesterOnline.

A full transcript of that session follows:

JohnnyG: Neil - a big thanks for your efforts to date!

JohnnyG: Neil, What's the latest on when building of the temporary rink can start? Is there another council meeting scheduled?

FP_McKenzie: Could I ask why there isn't a Town Hall meeting to keep people informed of what's going on?

Neil_Morris: There is another council meeting scheduled. It will take place at the end of this month, where hopefully the temporary structure will be ratified by the main council.

Neil_Morris: We haven't held town hall meetings because we've been waiting until we have the whole picture to be able to communicate with all of our supporters. However, we do realise that we have been very scarce in communicating via physical methods rather than online and email. The main reason for this is that we've had a very small skeleton staff.

Neil_Morris: We've also been trying to utilise the funds I've injected into the business wisely. As everyone knows mailshots and meetings cost a lot of money to produce. I would just like to say that the MEN have kept the general public very well informed with their regular articles, along with BBC GMR.

Guest: Do we have the Elite League's assurance that we will still be a part of that league next season?

Neil_Morris: Yes, we do. A board resolution has been taken for Manchester to have one more year out before we return.

pt_hockey_: Neil when do you anticipate employing people at the rink

Neil_Morris: Obviously questions like this are very difficult to answer until we get a final board resolution from Trafford Borough Council at the end of this month. We are led to believe the outcome should be positive and will immediately be able to put a critical path in place which will be published showing the construction of the building, the fit out and our operational status.

Guest1120: Is the temporary rink still to be built near the Trafford Centre?

Jim_P: Neil, looking even further ahead, how are the complex plans coming along for the permanent rink in Alti

Guest: Who would actually own the rink?

Neil_Morris: Trafford Borough Council have very kindly offered the opportunity to be on a much better site nearer the centre of Altrincham than the Trafford Centre site. Therefore should we be fortunate to be successful with our bid at the end of the month we would no longer be building a temporary facility at the Trafford Centre but more towards the heart of Altrincham.

Neil_Morris: The temporary facility will be owned jointly by myself and Mike Pertrious of Planet Ice.

IceIceBaby: Once you have a facility is there enough expertise available for the junior development programme, or is it going to be hard to find the staff?

Neil_Morris: We have had many good offers of people with vast experience already involved in junior hockey in the NW. These people would obviously provide the main backbone to setting up the junior development programmes. We also have an affiliation with BIPA who also have a lot of experienced staff as part of their operation who can advise and help. So hopefully there would be no shortage of good, experienced people able to construct a very healthy junior development programme for Manchester.

email_question: question from Malcolm: When the new facility is up and running will there be an opportunity for fans to visit the arena prior to possibly buying season tickets?

Neil_Morris: When the new facility is constructed there will be an opportunity for fans to visit the venue and purchase season tickets. However, we intend to hold a special private tour for all our existing season ticket holders who have left their money with the club and kept us solvent through these difficult times, these people will get the first opportunity to touch, taste and feel the building and to pick their seats.

IceIceBaby: I did read that sky tv were in talks with the elite league, subject to a certain number of teams, will the withdrawal of the Phoenix afect this?

Neil_Morris: Sky TV and NASN were and are in talks with the Elite League regarding television coverage of the sport. However, information that is inaccurate seems to have misled people to believe it is based around a number of teams.

Neil_Morris: It is the same conversation that was had last season when there were only eight teams. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions on the amount of teams needed for the deal.

email_question: question from Phil John: We used to regularly get 10,000 fans through the door at the MEN Arena, but you're only planning to build a 3000 seat rink - are we aiming high enough?

Neil_Morris: Last season I hired an 18,000 seater while aiming very high. Unfortunately I averaged between 2250 and 2500. So on the temporary structure I've tried to get the right estimation for rebuilding the fan base.

Neil_Morris: It is intended that the permanent structure will have more seats than the temporary but it has to be based on a commercially sound business plan that will allow this club to be sustainable for the long term future.

email_question: question from Joel: why did the phoenix not opt for playing the 1st half of the season on the road, while an arena was built, much like the Belfast Giants did in their first season and then playing a string of maybe 25 matches at home in a row?

Neil_Morris: Effectively it takes about £100K up front to make a team mobile. Thats for housing, cars, equipment, flights, insurance, training, staff.

Neil_Morris: On top of that roughly £20000 to £25000 a week to pay for running the team. So it wouldn't take long to run up a bill of over £250000 with no income coming in.

Neil_Morris: So far, the Phoenix has not found anybody that unstable to put those sort of finances up. You would also have to play the majority of your away games on the front end of the season, and your home games at the back end of the season, which is impossible in gaining fixtures with other clubs.

Neil_Morris: That would make the concept totally unviable commerically.

chrishull: Barring any major disasters can you be confident we will definatley ice a team in the 2006/7 season?

Neil_Morris: Barring any major disasters, we are all at the club looking forward to icing a team in the 2006-07 season. Otherwise, I have spent an awful lot of time and money for nothing.

email_question: question from Gabrielle: Will there be ice available for figure skaters & ice dancers?

Neil_Morris: Yes, there will be ice available for figure skaters, and ice dancers, including the community. This will be a community rink for everybody, not just the Manchester Phoenix.

JohnnyG: Is it intended to use the temporary rink for public skating? If so, how soon after being built is this envisaged?

Neil_Morris: As soon as viably possible.

FP_McKenzie: Do we have any players under contract for when we come back in 2006?

Neil_Morris: No, we do not have any players on contract when we return in 2006-07. However, we do have some really great players and characters who have already said they want to play for the new Manchester Phoenix.

Neil_Morris: I know a lot of these guys personally, and would feel any coach would want these type of players on board. I am flattered and proud that they keep in touch and still want to play for our club.

Neil_Morris: It would be wrong of me at this time to name names as most of them have been contracted to other clubs and therefore, I suppose, we shouldn't talk to each other.

Jim_P: Neil, with Phoenix having an assurance of EIHL participation next season, that will bring the league up to their prefered 10 teams. Is there any likliehood of expansion or will that be it

Neil_Morris: I believe at this point the Elite League will stop at ten teams. That does not mean to say that the league will not want to help and grow the sport in any way it can.

Guest: Will we still be able to have an allocation of tickets for this years Play-Off finals? In our own block?

Neil_Morris: Yes, we will still have a ticket allocation, as long as you can still make the amount of noise you made last season. Remember, it's not quantity, it's quality!

chrishull: How likely is it we will have the new rink set up by christmas?

Neil_Morris: I would believe that having the new rink up by Xmas is very possible, looking at existing critical paths.

email_question: question from Jonathan Curtis: If the rink opens before the end of the season could we have a match to open it up? Maybe Mike Morins testimonial?

Neil_Morris: There are plans to hold matches at the new facility. I can say no more than that at the moment!

Neil_Morris: Though please don't read into this that we're playing Elite League level hockey this season!

IceIceBaby: You advertised trials for junior players who are already playing for other teams. Do you plan a junior develpment programme for players at all levels, or just the most promising?

Neil_Morris: Obviously, only the most promising players, like in all sports, will make it onto the first teams. However, we will be running hockey skills at all levels for everybody.

FP_McKenzie: Can we host one-off fixtures this season for other clubs if they have booking problems at their own venues?

Neil_Morris: Yes, that is one of the options that has been given to us by the Elite League. There are many others, but I don't want to unveil them until we have a building to play out of confirmed.

Guest: We have heard that there could be a roller hockey rink attached to the project is that correct?

Neil_Morris: It's unlikely that the roller hockey rink will come online in the first phase of the temporary development.

Neil_Morris: It is more likely that this will be part of future plans on the permanent site.

Neil_Morris: There are a lot of questions coming in, from new people, that have been answered earlier on. We're not ignoring you, but there will be a full transcript of the chat session later on both here and on the Phoenix website.

email_question: question from Mike: will there be enough seats for the fans that have stayed with the team through the darker times? will we be rewarded will a member ship card be in place for those that can not make it every week ?

Neil_Morris: That really depends if all 10,000 from the earlier days come back on our earlier night.

Neil_Morris: As this is unlikely I believe we will have enough seats for all the great fans that have supported this club through thick and thin, and the darker times.

Neil_Morris: We intend for the temporary facility to have nearly 2,500 seats.

Neil_Morris: But as I said, that really depends if all 10,000 from the earlier days come back on our opening night.

Guest2207: Is there any plan for another team to play from this venue other than the Phoenix i.e Altrincham a lower non-import level....with suffiecient practise/match times ?

Neil_Morris: We are in discussions at the moment regarding other teams that may play below the Phoenix. No final decision has been made and we really need to wait for the confirmation of the building before we finalise any of the agreements that are being discussed.

Guest1120: Are Phoenix intending to ice junior teams in various leagues such as Altrincham used to do

Neil_Morris: Yes, the Phoenix intends to ice under-10s, under 12s, under 14s, under 16s and under 19s.

Guest: At the moment, the Planet Ice rink in Coventry houses the EPL finals. Could it be at all possible that we could share in holding it in future years and could you please use any influence you have with the league to make sure that the EPL and Elite finals are held on different weekends?

Neil_Morris: I am sure once our new facility comes online, many opportunities, like the one you suggest above, will come our way. I will however, in the meantime, voice your opinion not to hold these two finals on the same weekend to the Elite League board of directors and the EPL.

Guest: Are there any plans in place to give exsisting season ticket holders ( those who have left their money in) an opportunity to chose their seats before anyone else?

Neil_Morris: This question keeps reoccurring. Are there any special plans for our season ticket holders who have left their money in the club to help us stay solvent? The answer is yes - it was covered earlier exactly what we intend to do for them and will appear in the transcripts later on both the Phoenix site and here on ManchesterOnline.

email_question: question from Peter Walker: Please can you confirm that the season ticket money is still sat in a separate account?

Neil_Morris: yes, the season ticket money is still sat in a seperate account and has not been touched. I have personally funded the club and all our activities to build a new structure myself.

Jim_P: Thanks Neil for all your efforts, who knows , you might have to put a second tier on the new permanent facility in 10 years time

ManchesterOnline: We're now bringing the web chat to a close. We'd like to thank you for taking part and over to Neil for a final word

Neil_Morris: I'd just like to thank everybody that's supported ice hockey over the previous years. it's been a very difficult ride for everybody but I do appreciate the great support that we get from the people of Manchester. You are the only reason at times I carry on doing this. Please tell as many people as you can, via radio, newspapers, telephones and the internet that we're alive and kicking. We will be doing a massive mailshot once the final decision to build the venue has been made.

Neil_Morris: Hopefully everybody will know the state of professional and non-professional ice sports in Manchester. And remember, keep the faith.

Guest: Thank you very much

JohnnyG: thanks neil

Guest: Can I just say thank you very much for sticking to your and our dreams?

Guest1120: Thanks for all your efforts Neil