Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Belfast Giants' financial woes are in the past, says Todd Kelman

Todd Kelman believes that the serious financial problems that almost saw the Belfast Giants go under are well and truly in the past.

While all those associated with the Giants have been smiling this week following the club’s Elite League triumph, frowns were to the fore back in 2003 when the Belfast ice hockey team were close to going to the wall.

Indeed at that stage the whole Super League, as it was called back then, was in danger of going bankrupt.

Thankfully everyone stepped back from the cliff and now the sport in the United Kingdom appears to be going from strength to strength.

It may seem a little downbeat given that they have just become champions, but after what happened in Scotland to Rangers with the club going into administration, the financial question is worth asking.

After all if it could happen to the Glasgow giants, it could happen to other sporting outfits like the Belfast Giants.

So, is there any chance of the modern day Odyssey-based Giants folding?

General Manager Kelman smiles, before joking: “No, we pay our taxes.”

Then he gets serious, reflecting on the tough times when he was a player.

He says: “After our third year in 2003 we almost went bankrupt and the whole League almost went bankrupt. Thankfully the League was restructured because everyone realised that owners were simply spending too much on players.

“They made it that player salaries were affordable to owners so that clubs could survive.

“There is no point in losing hundreds of thousands to win a championship. It's just not worth it.

“You look at Rangers, which is one of the biggest clubs in the world, yet they have lost all that money and are in so much financial difficulty.

“One problem that football has is that there is always one owner willing to spend more than rivals in a bid to get ahead, but going down that road can cause problems.

“That's why I like salary caps. We are not a big spending league and the cap keeps everyone in check and you know how much you can pay. Maybe football could learn from north American sports that have salary caps.”

Kelman adds there is now more positivity surrounding ice hockey in the UK than there has been for some time.

He says: “The Elite League has 10 solid teams now. We've gained another three teams in Scotland and the next move is to try and get a team in London which would put our League on the map even more. Financially it appears the teams are strong.

“When I started here, it seemed like a team was folding every year. Now when we are at meetings about the League we talk about how we will sell out the play-off games rather than who is losing money or who is struggling to survive and whose players aren't going to have sticks this week.

“It's all positive talk which is great for the sport.”

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