Comment on the Kloten Flyers situation by Andreas Reiner

Comment on the Kloten Flyers situation by Andreas Reiner

Andreas Reiner11 Mar 2016Andreas Reiner»
 

After a day full of rumours surrounding the NLA club Kloten Flyers it's time to analyse what happened in and around the longest serving NLA team.

 
 
 
 

A day after being eliminated from the play-offs against HC Davos the Flyers Managment faced another struggle today. After "Blick" journalist Dino Kessler posted an article about the Flyers owners, the Canadian Avenir Sports Group (ASG), wanting out of the deal a wave of outrage went through the various media outlets in Switzerland. To understand what this is all about, it's important to explain what had happened in the past months and weeks.

The Canadian investors had bought the deeply adverse Kloten Flyers from Philip Gaydoul for a symbolic amount of one Swiss Franc in 2015. Shortly after, a new post-season ticketing system was implemented that saw the fans paying extra for play-off tickets for season ticket holders. Obviously the fans weren't too amused and as a result, almost 1000 fans less showed up at the Swiss Arena this season. On the other hand, head coach and Manager Sean Simpson was given permission to go shopping  for import-players. Sometimes luckier, sometimes less. Mark Olver was one of those players that had to leave during the season. Mathis Olimb, James Sheppard where other players that were signed during the 2015 campaign. The Flyers struggled througout the season, spending most of the time outside of a play-off spot and securing the 7th spot in the final rounds of the regular season. The president of the Kloten Flyers at the time, Ken Stickney, left the Flyers quite hasty 3 weeks ago just to buy league opponent Lausanne HC. This obviously added more insecurity to an already shaky organisation.

ASG was aware what deal they were entering when obtaining the Flyers. They knew about the 6 to 7 million Swiss Francs of debt that the previous owners had covered year after year after year. and yet, Doug Piper, president of the board, confirmed time and time that ASG wasn't planning to chicken out on their deal but actually stay long term, bringing the club back on the winning road, rebuild the junior department that used to have a very good reputation and actually making money with this club. None of these mentioned points are realistic without investing money first. The ZSC Lions are a very good example of how it can work when you start from scratch but it also shows that without a patron or financially pontential sponsor, it is basically impossible to run a NLA team.

So what happened? Doug Piper, designated President of the Kloten Flyers had confirmed that ASE had no plans of loosing millions and then just leaving again. But after Thursday's loss against Davos things seemed to have changed. On Friday morning the Swiss boulevard newspaper "Blick" issued an article, mentioning that ASE was about to leave the Flyers due to the situation they had experienced during the past months. Three options were mentioned how to turn around the situation: sell the players, accept a voluntary relegation to the NLB and a relocation within Switzerland. Two of these options seem completely out of question, never before has a hockey team in Switzerland been relocated, something that has happened in North American Sports Leagues various times (Quebec Nordiques, Atlanta Thrashers, Minnesota North Stars etc.). A relegation to the NLB also seems like an unrealistic scenario as the revenue would decrease even further, making the situation even worse. Also, it's not clear if the players contracts have clauses that would specify this rather special option.

So it's basically down to selling the players but if you don't have a competitive team, the relegation might just be a question of time (this is a reason Doug Piper supported closing the league and stopping relegation).

For a while not much happened on this Friday. But later, the bigger newspaper outlets like "Tages-Anzeiger" and the "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" issued their own statements, all based on the one that Blick had posted, adding information that had been known to the public already. The situation didn't get any better when an official statement by the Kloten Flyers was released regarding the contract extension of goalie Luca Boltshauser. Media members were getting impatient about the holding back of information by the Flyers back office.

In the night from Friday to Saturday, ASE released a statement, explaining the further steps in selling the Kloten Flyers, you can find the statement here.

So everything that had been said by ASE, the promise of a long-term relationship, reviving the youth teams etc., nothing of this was true. One of the things the ASE Group made happen was a ticketing system that saw the spectator numbers plunge from over 5'600 in 2013 to 4'800 this season. For every home game with less than 5'000 fans, the owner lost money. The fans were asked to pay for the playoffs. In the past, playoff tickets were included in the season ticket.

It'll be interesting to see what happens in the coming months. According to the statement, the Group will support the Flyers until a new "local" owner is found. For the team and employees the near future is cloudy but hope remains that the Flyers will be able to land safely.

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