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Superleague Looks Up To Blaze Example

Coventry Blaze is attracting envious comments from Superleague clubs, jealous at the “exciting” play and “good blend of British players” on show.

Newcastle Jesters chairman Paul Smith has called on his fellow teams in the supposedly superior league to cut down on the number of imports.

The defensive style of play brought by legions of bruising north Americans has proved a turn-off for crowds in the Superleague, where attendances have dropped.

Smith has called for the good example of the British National League to be looked at more closely, and hinted that the Jesters might prefer that environment.

Speaking ahead of yesterday’s board meeting, he told the Guardian:

"It's crunch time. Everybody has to realise costs are going out of the window. The only people making any money out of it are the players. It wants a radical rethink.

"Everybody is haemorrhaging money at a pace and it's because of the product. Some people might not like that but it is a fact of life."

 "Even putting the cost thing to one side altogether, the sport is beginning to lose its identity. Fans cannot relate to the teams on the ice. It looks like an imported sport."

Smith, a former GB International, praised the agreement that restricts BNL teams to eight imports per side, and added that the style of play is “bloody exciting”.

With a cable TV deal signed for next year, along with a £500,000 sponsorship deal with Findus Frozen Foods, BNL is on the up.

And Smith has earmarked Coventry Blaze as one of the success stories. Since the move from Solihull to the Skydome attendances have grown and have touched 2,300 – above the average attendance of some Superleague clubs.

He said:

"Look at the likes of Coventry: a good blend of British players, they're getting half-decent crowds, 2,500 or whatever, and making money. It's realistic because the BNL have got their act together in the amount of Brits in the teams. I just think it makes sense."

Grant Charman, operations director for Coventry Blaze said there is less aggression and more attacking play in the BNL, and Superleague could learn lessons from their smaller partner.

But with the wage guidelines in Superleague being five times greater than the BNL, there is still a huge gulf in resources. Coventry Blaze spend under £100,000 on their squad, while the Superleague teams can spend £500,000.

Charman said:

“The fear is that they will try and buy the best players. My guess is that Superleague clubs lose more each year than our total turnover.”

The Superleague's attitude has also been blasted by Great Britain coach, after yesterday's training session in Hull flopped.

Only 33 out of 55 players turned up for the session, and McSorley blamed the Superleague for allowing club fixtures to get in the way of the revival of the national team.

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CWN / Sport / Ice Hockey / Coventry Blaze / 7 Feb 01
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