An EIHL Team in Birmingham – Why Not?
Periodically a debate about where the next EIHL team might pop up from spreads among the fan base.
Invariably London is mentioned. The wealthy EPL teams also get their share of consideration – despite a couple of them already having tried, and failed, to make a go of it in the Elite League.
Hopes of new ice rinks outside of the capital are always shared – with Liverpool and Leeds the other common ‘hot spots’ discussed. But why not the UK’s ‘second city’?
Before we begin, I grant you that this is very much a theoretical argument. Birmingham has seen hockey in the city before, but the current rink at The Leisure Box is unsuitable for even an NIHL team to properly function. A suitable facility would need to be discussed, seriously, before any hopes of an EIHL, or any other, team in Birmingham could even be thought about.
But lets be (extremely) optimistic for a second, and think that someone in the city looks at the Skydome in Coventry or Belfast’s Odyssey Arena (or even IceSheffield) and sets the wheels in motion – another leisure facility born out of Britain’s Olympic legacy and the governments aims of promoting healthier lifestyles…
Naturally a larger facility would provide greater scope for ‘other events’ (see ‘other sources of revenue’) in a large city like Birmingham. You only need look at the range of activities at the NIC to see how an arena can house a top flight hockey team and stage other events – live music, Disney on Ice and alike.
But even a small-medium size facility in a similar vein to Ice Sheffield would offer the opportunity to run an EIHL (or maybe even EPL) team.
Add in that more than 3.5 million people live in the greater Birmingham area, and you have a pretty hefty target audience from which to build a fan base and create the ‘eyeballs’ sponsors will love.
The opportunity to ‘team up’ with NIHL North outfit Solihull provides an opportunity to create a healthy development system within the West Midlands again; whilst the Coventry Blaze provide a natural, geographical rivalry that both clubs could benefit from.
There are a huge amount of ifs and buts in this – the cost of a new rink, the NIA’s ‘monopoly’ on large events in the city, the start up cost and structure required to run even a successful EPL club, let alone an EIHL one.
Really, this is nothing more than a flight of fancy; but if we’re going to dream of expanding the UK’s hockey landscape – why not Birmingham?