Is the KHL Coming to the UK?
While Linus Omark’s flaming stick garnered most of the headlines from today’s KHL All Star Game, news of further expansion for the league also set tongues wagging, with the possibility of clubs from Estonia, China, Sweden and Great Britain joining the fold in the near future.
Yes, Great Britain.
KHL President Dmitry Chernyshenko confirmed receipt of applications from all four nations earlier today, per Tass.ru
“At the moment we have a request from Estonia, Sweden, the UK and other countries, – said Chernyshenko – certainty will come in April.”
Does this mean a decision on a new KHL team based in the UK could come as soon as April? Possibly, with the league already set to expand in to Beijing and clubs from Belarus, Croatia, Kazakhstan Latvia, Slovakia and Finland already involved, it would certainly line up with the league’s original plans to become a pan-European league.
Previously, expansion in to the UK had been rumoured as part of this plan, but many believed the periodic financial problems the league and it’s clubs have faced might have tempered these goals – but it seems that there is still interest in forming a club based in Great Britain.
Details remain limited at this time, with the obvious candidates at this point being either a team forming in London, or one of the larger EIHL teams stepping up.
Any plan to form a KHL team in London is likely to face the same difficulties the EIHL has had in replacing the London Racers, after they folded in 2006; namely the lack of an obvious facility to house the team as well as sufficient financial backing to make the team successful in the British capital.
There have, however, been rumours of a London based EIHL franchise forming under the guidance of Nottingham and Braehead owner Neil Black. Allegedly named the London Emperors, suggestions of a potential home have included Wembley Arena – though a sufficiently funded KHL team may also look in to the possibility of playing in the O2 Arena, which hosted the NHL Premier games between Anaheim and Los Angeles in 2007.
With strong transport links to and from London, the possibility that a London team – either EIHL or other – could train at another rink and travel in to the city for home games may help overcome some potential difficulties in finding a venue.
London is already home to a number of wealthy Russian businessmen, with others owning second homes in the capital, so there are potential ties to the league’s existing ownership groups as well as the Russian government and the KHL’s current administration, which may play a part in the application being submitted – either in terms of an ownership role or a financial support capacity.
UPDATE:- Workforce Bank has announced a new partnership deal with the KHL, part of which involves a plan to “expand KHL business operations and bring more training and exhibition games to United Kingdom”
Stick tap to Aivis Kalniņš for bringing all of this to our attention!