Steelers supremo issues his New Year wish

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STEELERS owner Tony Smith hopes that Sheffield’s pursuit of honours on three fronts will attract more fans through the door in the New Year.

Times are hard at the club as they are at most sports businesses - but at least they are sustainable at the House of Steel, for once.

The club, after losing access to fans’ season ticket money at the beginning of the year when the former operating company crashed, are averaging around 3,000 spectators a match despite a vision of nearer 4,500.

And the much-vaunted Festival of Hockey at the start of the season did not live up to all expectations.

Smith, who took over full control last June, said: “It is true that we are below the figures we had budgeted for in terms of crowd numbers.

“And for the club to survive and prosper fans have to come to the Arena, it’s as simple as that.

“But we are not in any difficulties as a business. We are paying our way and don’t owe anybody any money.

“Financially, we are in a better position than we thought we would be at Christmas and that is down to putting proper procedures in place and the best off-ice team this club has probably ever had.”

Smith said that the £50,000 earned through the Festival had to go straight to the Arena as a deposit on the season - replacing the season ticket money which normally secures their year-long tenancy.

“It is hard to sell ice hockey” admitted Smith.

“Ronnie Wood [a pioneer at the start of the club’s history] told me they used to give away 5,000 tickets to kick it all off.

“We’re coming round to the view that it’s not about getting old fans back but attracting new ones.

“New ones have no preconceptions. Instead, they come and enjoy watching a team that never knows when it is beaten and has that special quality of keeping going to the very last minute.

“They are all working for Finner [coach Ryan Finnerty] - he really has the room together. The players seem to bond more every day.’’