TROUBLED tycoon Paul Ragan today hit back at criticism for liquidating Sheffield Steelers’ management company - and turned his anger on title-winning player coach Ben Simon.
Ragan has declined to discuss financial details of why he closed Rink Corp, which manages Steelers and his other club Cardiff Devils, a move that has unsettled some fans.
But his surprise attack on the outgoing Simon appears to point the finger at the way Sheffield was run last season.
Ragan told The Star Rink Corp would NOT have been liquidated if he hadn’t added Steelers to his portfolio in January. And while the millionaire accepts Simon wasn’t solely responsible for spiralling costs at Sheffield, he was “one of the factors.”
Ragan accused the American former NHL star of:
Secretly signing player employment contracts with “two of his best buddies” for 2011-12 season, even though Simon had served notice he was leaving. That he described as “underhand...a breach of trust.” These contracts were sent directly to the Elite League, said Ragan, but were returned as they’d not been authorised.
The Star believes the players concerned were north Americans Rob Globke and Neil Clark. Globke has since been released and Clark re-employed on a smaller salary.
Having “no respect for budgets or the financial running of the business.”
Ragan claimed: “Ben had little concern about costs that were jeopardising the club. There was no management of costs whatsoever...there’s no money tree in the garden.”
Being difficult to manager and “manically depressive” - recalling one game where they had beaten Belfast Giants but Simon was “moaning about David Simms” the match night presenter.
Leaving a rented house in such a state that the club had to forfeit the bond.
Ragan alleged that Simon “ran scared” from the club because he didn’t want to run a team with a budget comparable to the others rather than nearly double others. He didn’t give “two hoots for the club” when he left. Simon vigorously denies all these allegations.
The Star reminded Ragan that he had offered Simon a new contract for the coming season, but he replied that was before details of the financial meltdown had become fully clear. Ragan said: “The new contract was offered against our better judgement. While an outstanding performer on the ice, Ben wasn’t always professional off it. We couldn’t have a loose cannon.”
Ragan conceded that Simon was not the “big bad wolf” merely “one of the cogs in the wheel” and that there were other factors in Rink Corp going into liquation and threatening 16 jobs, including that of Paul Sullivan, the match night director.
Simon told The Star he has no desire to get into a personal battle with Ragan. He said: “I have moved on with my life.” But he did give detailed answers to the criticisms - see The Star tomorrow.