PAUL Ragan is to quit day-to-day management of Sheffield Steelers after a torrid week of in-fighting at the club.
While he will retain a half share in the Arena team, he will supervise only his other club, Cardiff Devils, leaving the Elite League champions solely in the hands of his Manor-born commercial director, Tony Smith, aged 47.
Ragan has been in The Star’s headlines following a bust-up with former coach Ben Simon, controversy over the dumping of ‘two year’ import Rob Globke and revelations of a suggestion, last season, that he was willing to pay players via offshore accounts.
Ragan said: “Following events of the past few weeks, I’ve taken a decision to commit 100% of my time to Devils. The running of two clubs has been a challenge and I do not consider it fair on either sets of fans to split my time or loyalties. I will retain a silent equity stake in Steelers, but control will be handed over to Tony.
“I have worked with Tony closely and his commitment and professionalism is exactly what the club has been missing for years. We look forward to doing battle next year.”
Effectively, the company controlling Steelers (Ice Arena) and its players will now be direct competitors with Ragan and Cardiff, despite Ragan’s dual investment.
Smith, owner of Eckington sports merchandising firm, Rhino, said: “I am not taking over in Sheffield as an ego trip, I want a successful business. The club has taken too many knocks from people from outside the city who do not have the same passion.”
Asked what it will take for Steelers to finish on top of Ragan-driven Cardiff, he replied: “A lot of hard work.”
Smith, who lives in the Crystal Peaks area, said budgets for Steelers and Devils would now be different: “There will be no financial connection at all; the clubs need to be independent.”
Steelers have signed Hull winger Lee Esders.