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[an error occurred while processing this directive] Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Jesters thrown out of Superleague
Newcastle Jesters in action
Newcastle owed 150,000 to last season's players
By BBC Sport Online's Stuart Hughes

The Ice Hockey Superleague (ISL) has taken back the Newcastle franchise from the owners of the Jesters.

The Tyneside club has been involved in a long-running dispute over the non-payment of almost 150,000 to members of last season's squad.

Jesters' owners - European Sports Holdings - now have three months to sell the franchise before it reverts to the Superleague.

European Sports Holdings has claimed that moves to find new investors to take over the club are well advanced.

However, it looks likely that there will be no top flight ice hockey in the North East this season.

The Jesters have been unable to play any of their games so far this season because of an embargo, banning them from signing players until the debts are settled.


We shall be consulting with our lawyers as to any other avenues to explore
Ice Hockey Players' Association executive director Jo Collins

The ISL finally lost patience with the Jesters last month and told the club to clear its debts by 17 October or face expulsion from the league.

Last week it appeared a resolution to the row was in sight.

European Sports Holdings offered to settle the debt in instalments and promised to make the first payment within days.

But at an extraordinary general meeting of the Superleague board on Wednesday, the Jesters' franchise was finally withdrawn.

A spokesman for European Sports Holdings, Graham Courtney, said: "We are obviously very, very disappointed that we were unable to secure investment in time for today's meeting.

"A lot of people have devoted a lot of time and money trying to restructure and save the Newcastle Jesters.

Best interests

"Raising funds, finding backers and rebuilding a company takes time," Courtney said.

"However, we shall continue to work in the best interests of the club and aim to find investors as quickly as possible.

"I know that this has been an extremely frustrating period for a lot of people, especially the fans, but it has proved impossible to raise the finance in the time available and in the current climate," he added.

The Ice Hockey Players' Association, which has been negotiating on behalf of last season's Jesters squad, said it was "hugely disappointed and thoroughly dejected".

"We felt that we and our lawyers had done everything we could to accommodate both the owners of the Jesters and the league in trying to find a resolution to the problem of the debts to players," said IHPA executive director Jo Collins.

"However we had no control over the other debts, and as the owners in the end failed to make any payment under the proposals put to them recently the writing was clearly on the wall."

Further developments

Collins added: "We shall be consulting with our lawyers as to any other avenues to explore.

"Obviously the alternatives are limited and dependent on a number of factors and further developments.

"What does concern me now is that once again the ISL will come out of this as the only financial winners whilst the rest of the creditors and especially the players may be left to pick up the crumbs from any liquidation of the company," she said.

The IHPA again called on the Superleague to introduce a bond scheme to help keep franchises which run into financial trouble afloat.

"Had they taken on board our much vaunted and frequently suggested bond scheme idea then both the Newcastle players and the Cardiff players would have been paid in full and the ISL would then as a professional league have retained some credibility," Collins added.

See also:

17 Oct 01 |  Other Sports
Deadline passes in Jesters pay row
26 Sep 01 |  Other Sports
Jesters owner in Superleague storm
07 Aug 01 |  Other Sports
Jesters boss issues promise
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