Comment: No new franchise for MK the right call

Milton Keynes Lightning bowed out of the Elite League after two seasons, but a new franchise there has been rejected (PHOTO: Tony Sargent)

The news that the Elite League had rejected a proposal for a brand new franchise in Milton Keynes was one met with the same reaction as when it was first made public last week…indifference.

After two years, Lightning couldn’t make it work and promptly headed into the bosom of the NIHL to a level they are perhaps more comfortable with, both on the ice and financially.

I didn’t detect any great reaction either way to the news it was even a consideration so if that was an indicator of how things might have gone had it been passed, maybe it’s not a bad thing it’s been shelved.

But, as an outsider looking in, there must have been something to make the consortium involved convinced it was workable, hence why the proposal was submitted in the first place.

Logistically is where the problems would have lay, basically looking at three teams to work out of the same rink, when you add MK Thunder into the mix.

Ice time, practice time, not to mention three separate entities could have caused all manner of headaches in terms of a schedule.

Plus, you’re really testing the loyalties of the fan base in the town by asking them to consider the prospect of throwing their support behind a third team in the Elite League.

Lewis Clifford is the new coach of MK Lightning as they move to the NIHL (PHOTO: MK Thunder)

I know there are Lightning supporters disappointed at the move to drop out of the EIHL and really bought into the step up to the top level, but the reality was not a lot of them did which is why the owners looked to move down.

It should be pointed out that the relationship between the owners and fans isn’t entirely smooth either, but amid rumours of haemorrhaging cash and stories of players going unpaid, relinquishing their EIHL status against their long term survival was a choice that was a no-brainer.

So it’s hard to see how a new team in the Elite League from MK would have worked, given the difficulties Lightning had themselves.  I suspect it was something the board had taken into consideration before pressing the red button to stop it in its tracks.

For the league itself, it keeps it at a nice round 10, with the Challenge Cup possibly returning to two five-team groups and not having to come up with bizarre head to head factors in deciding who goes through.

With Tony Smith stating they will listen to any possible applications again from August, it gives MK, or anyone else, time to get their houses in order with a view to joining the top flight for 2020/21.

There’s certainly scope for more teams to join the EIHL fold, as we’ve seen, but getting it right is also very important and that’s what potential new franchises should make sure of.

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