Sheffield Steelers owner rubbishes 'Manchester City of EIHL' jibe

Sheffield Steelers owner Tony Smith has ridiculed suggestions that he will be spending £20,000 a week on his playing line-up this coming season.

By Bob Westerdale
Sunday, 30 June, 2019, 20:54
Nikolai Lemtyugov

An ice hockey website described Steelers as the ‘EIHL equivalent of Manchester City’ - the football club on whom Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the Abu Dhabi ruling family has lavished around £1.3 billion on in the last decade.

The site described overall Elite League spending as ‘lopsided’ in the sense that the expenditure of the big four (Steelers, Belfast Giants, Cardiff Devils and Nottingham Panthers) heavily outweighed the other teams in the division.

That put the pressure even more on new coach Aaron Fox, said chasingthepuck.com.

Smith, whose club announced the arrival of Russian star Nikolai Lemtyugov this week, shrugged off the figure as ‘fictitious’ and questioned how the author had managed to assemble a hierarchy of clubs in order of spending. Steelers were at the top of the list.

"That figure (£20,000) is so far off the mark, it's ridiculous, it's far too much," said Smith, the EIHL chairman. "Where do they get these stories from?"

"Clubs don't really know how much money each other spends, or who spends the most, or how. For instance, we might spread our money across four lines, while Guildford Flames, for example, might do the same with three.

"But what other teams are spending in total is of no concern to me."

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Smith thinks that new coach Fox's ability to secure players was down to his recruitment skills and the fact he could factor in MBA studies at the University of Sheffield.

He said: "Aaron is a shrewd guy and if we got a KHL player in, for example, it wouldn't be because we were throwing 100,000 Euros at him, it might because he is attracted to the University deal."

Steelers have indeed increased their player budget compared to last year, but it is not a huge uplift, said the owner.

"It is the highest budget we have had since I have been here, but I would not describe it as a significant rise," Smith said.

The web article concludes: "As the disparity between ‘the Big Four’ and ‘the rest’ continues to grow, you have to question how competitive is the EIHL really?

"I have often held the view that the EIHL is a league within a league, and the information provided by our former player does nothing but compound this belief.

"However, the addition of Guildford’s financial clout to the league (which was not welcomed by Sheffield…I wonder why) could one day unsettle the likes of Sheffield, Nottingham, Cardiff and Belfast, at the top of the Elite League.

"The recent losses of the Edinburgh Capitals and Milton Keynes Lightning (from the top flight) should been taken as a warning sign for the EIHL, but with the top continuing to spend big will British hockey ever learn?"