Club gets some stick for asking fans to give back strips

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MOST devoted sports fans would gladly give the shirt off their own back to help their team out of a fix.

But for a clutch of Edinburgh Capitals supporters this became an unlikely reality after their club’s kit for the new season was hit by delays.

Ahead of the debut clash of the new campaign, ice hockey chiefs asked four club diehards to return their fan-sponsored jerseys – presented to them at the end of last season – amid fears over supply.

And so facing off against the Nottingham Panthers on Sunday, the Caps were forced to wear last year’s kit with players’ names blanked out with tape – baffling many fans.

The sponsored jerseys see fans pay money throughout the season to back the strip of their favourite Capitals star, before being presented with the actual shirt at the end of the campaign.

Club owner Scott Neil has said the debacle was down to time restrictions at both Edinburgh Capitals and strip supplier Rhino, and confirmed the team would be sporting this season’s kit away to Belfast Giants this weekend.

However, the dilemma cut no ice with some members of the Capital’s support, with fans taking to the internet to vent their frustration.

One commenter on the official fans’ forum said: “Do you not think it a wee bit strange that only the Caps seem have these shirt issues? Not aware of any other team trawling the pubs borrowing fans’ shirts in the hours before face off.”

Matt Dible, editor of the club’s unofficial website, said: “All round it’s just highly embarrassing and after all the criticism the club has received for a perceived lack of professionalism it is the last thing they needed.”

Mr Neil said there was “no panic” over the kit quandary, which was resolved by borrowing tops from people who were “close to the club”.

He said: “We put in an order when they [the supplier] asked us but I think for both sides time has been tight.

“The supplier asked us if we could make alternative arrangements for this game, and they would have got the shirts to us if we couldn’t have made these alternative arrangements.

“We were just trying to take a bit of pressure off our supplier and ourselves. There was no big panic.

“Jerseys will be coming in this weekend so there’s no issue.”

Bosses at Rhino Sports claimed the order was only made ten days ago and with scheduling running at three weeks had “little or no hope” of making the deadline.

In a statement, Tony Smith, managing director at Rhino Sports, said: “I am trying very hard to find a slot this week for the Caps shirts but right now we do not have space.

“In 18 years Rhino have, to my knowledge, never missed a delivery slot. The problem is, in most cases, caused by clubs not doing their bit early enough.”

He added: “I am unhappy with the comments on the [Capitals fans’] forum regarding Rhino’s poor delivery service.

“What we give might not always suit but it’s a hard and fast delivery date taken from a very detailed schedule.”

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com