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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 June, 2003, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Giants on the rocks
Giants lost their Superleague crown to SHeffield last season
The Giants won the Play-off Championship last season

The Belfast Giants could go into liquidation and out of business if present huge debts are not cleared.

The former Superleague champions are believed to have debts of up to 1.4 million and have asked major creditors to take a massive cut in money owed.

There was mounting speculation that a local Ulster-American businessman is prepared to buy the club for a nominal amount if the 629,975 owed to unsecured creditors was cleared.

Creditors were sent a letter by the Giants' lawyers last week which admitted that the financial structure had been ''fundamentally flawed'' from its beginning.

The creditors are to be offered just 20p in the pound in an effort to wipe out the major debts. One local company is believed to be owed nearly 65,000.

Initially, huge financial packages were used as a bait to entice star players to Belfast.

But television money that was expected never materialised, when the Ice Hockey Superleague failed to secure a deal.

This is by far and away the worst business I have been involved in
Albert Maasland

The club's Dutch-Canadian owner Albert Maasland told the Sunday Life newspaper that the Giants were a financial flop.

However, he also said that he was determined to keep the club afloat and that he hoped that creditors would give the Giants a stay of execution and accept the arrangement being offered.

''This is by far and away the worst business I have been involved in. It has not worked financially,'' he said.

''I am hoping we can put it back on a sound footing, but I am not doing this now as a way to make money.

''Now it's a mater of personal pride to see the Giants continue.

''One approach would be for me to just walk away. But I do believe there is a future operating within this new league, and that is where we are moving.

''This will never be a major money-maker, that is not what we are trying to achieve. But the club has made a significant contribution to Northern Ireland.

Belfast Giants American hardman Paxton Schulte
Paxton Schulte could be forced to play elsewhere
''The critical reason I continue my involvement is that I am proud of what the club has contributed and I want that to continue.

The Giants' new backer James Gillespie has offered to put up the 130,000 to pay preferential and unsecured creditors and Maasland is hoping to convince creditors that it is the way forward.

''It is important that we have a full and frank discussion with our creditors. I am personally optimistic that we will reach agreement with them.''

The Giants financial future is not the only problem at present. The Belfast side are due to play in a new Elite League next season, but Ice Hockey, UK have refused affiliation.

That would mean that North Americans such as Paxton Schulte would not be granted work permits to play in an unofficial league.

The Giants are scheduled to be coached by Rob Stewart who took over when Dave Whistle moved to Germany.




SEE ALSO
Elite League "will go ahead"
31 May 03  |  Other Sport
Stevens to leave the Giants
09 Apr 03  |  Other Sport
Giants win play-off title
06 Apr 03  |  Other Sport

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