Edinburgh Capitals’ future in doubt as rival group launches bid to play at Murrayfield

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The future of Edinburgh Capitals has been placed in doubt after a rival organisation launched a bid to play Elite League ice hockey in the city.

Racers Leisure Limited, who include on their board of directors David Hand - the current chairman of the Scottish Ice Hockey Association and brother of Britain’s greatest-ever player Tony Hand MBE - are aiming to run a professional hockey team at Murrayfield after ice rink bosses put the ice-time contract out to tender.

Edinburgh Capitals have called Murrayfield home for 20 years

Edinburgh Capitals have called Murrayfield home for 20 years

The new company behind Edinburgh Capitals, Cool House Marketing Limited, have also submitted their bid.

Caps have been tenants out of the Riversdale rink throughout their 20-year history, originally playing in the now-defunct British National League, before in 2005 becoming the first Scottish club to join the Elite League.

Capitals have just endured a horrendous season which saw former owner Scott Neil’s holding company Capitals Hockey Limited forced into liquidation last November, and the team pick up just five league wins and 11 points from their 56 game season – the lowest points total of any team in Elite League history.

Indeed, Edinburgh have finished bottom of the league in each of the last three seasons and, despite the club last month announcing a new board structure – including fan representation – ahead of next season’s campaign due to get underway in September, it appears Murrayfield bosses are concerned about the future of ice hockey in the Capital.

It is understood both groups have submitted detailed business plans to the Murrayfield top-brass and that the rink have arranged further meetings with both parties before any decision is made on who is awarded the contract.

Should Murrayfield Ice Rink choose to offer the ice-time contract to Racers Leisure Limited, Hand and his fellow board members would then need to enter into negotiations with the Elite League to obtain a franchise in order to run a team out of Murrayfield.

Ice hockey fans in the city, although dismayed by Edinburgh Capitals’ poor season, will be concerned that should Racers Leisure win the bid for Murrayfield but fail in their efforts to obtain an Elite League franchise, it would see the end of top-level professional ice hockey in Edinburgh.

However, David Hand is 100 per cent convinced there will be Elite League hockey in Murrayfield come September. He said: “All we’ve done is apply to Murrayfield Ice Rink for the ice contract commencing season 18-19 and, if successful with that bid, we well then be applying to the Elite League.

“We are not considering in any way, shape, or form a team at any other level. Our sole commitment is to having Elite League ice hockey in Edinburgh.

“We’ve put a note of interest to the Elite League that we are interested in the franchise, but we can’t formally approach them until we have secured the ice at Murrayfield.

“We’ve been in the sport 30 years, and the last thing we want is to see Elite League hockey leaving Murrayfield. Edinburgh needs the Elite League, and if that’s the Caps or our team then good luck to whoever gets it.

“This is not a takeover to oust Edinburgh Capitals. It’s a bid that we’ve submitted. If we’re successful we’ll take the sport forward within Murrayfield and, if we’re not successful, we’ll walk away.

“We’ve good people around us, financial people, business people, all of that is key, and we’re all hockey people. We’ve got the finance to start it off, we’ve got the business sense, and we’ve got the contacts to build a successful team out of Murrayfield.

“I believe 100 per cent that there will be Elite League hockey in Edinburgh next season – which party gets it I have no idea – but Elite League hockey is all any of us want.”

A spokesperson for the Edinburgh Capitals said: “The new Capitals structure has been getting put in place since November. A new vision, with new investment and new directors, with the aim of producing a competitive, successful Edinburgh Capitals team.

“We’ve endured a very tough season, but we are committed to ensuring a bright future at the club. We’re delighted with the professionalism and skill-set of the people we’ve brought on board, and with the involvement of the Supporters Club and fans representative that ensures transparency at the club.”

Murrayfield ice rink managing director Richard Stirling refused to comment on any individual bids, or when any decision would be reached. However, he said: “Any final decision about Elite League hockey at Murrayfield rests with the league itself.

“We (rink management) have been meeting and discussing the future because it’s been a pretty poor season one way or another and there have been various problems that have cropped up that both the league and ourselves aren’t too happy with, and these need to be rectified if the sport is to move forward in Edinburgh.”

The Elite League was unavailable for comment when contacted by the Evening News.