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Last Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005, 17:42 GMT
Racers pull out over safety fears
Hockey stick
London Racers have withdrawn from the Elite League because of safety concerns over their Lee Valley ice rink.

Officials made the move after a player was injured by a "protruding object" rinkside and a fan was hurt when glass behind one of the goals shattered.

A club statement said: "The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority through the Lee Valley Ice Centre are unable to provide a safe venue for elite ice hockey.

"We are unwilling to put commercial interests before that of safety."

Racers officials first became concerned about safety standards on 5 November when Nottingham Panthers' Blaz Emersic suffered a serious facial injury when crashing into the side of the rink.

We are in the end left with the stark reality of being an ice hockey team with no ice upon which to play
London Racers' official statement

Then, a glass barrier behind one of the goals shattered "in an explosive manner" when hit by a puck during a match against Sheffield Steelers on 13 November.

A fan "jumped out of the way" but was still cut by the flying debris.

The same panel of glass shattered again in a subsequent training session.

The statement added: "Club officials are now very concerned that such an incident is likely to reoccur with people less mobile sustaining very serious injuries.

"It has therefore become impossible for us to continue playing at Lee Valley knowing the danger fans and players will be facing.

"The decision has been made with deep regret and a heavy heart but ultimately it was the only decision available to us."

The club - sixth in the nine-team Elite League before Monday's announcement - say all attempts to find another rink have failed and that they are now homeless.

"Whilst the club has explored all other avenues, we are in the end left with the stark reality of being an ice hockey team with no ice upon which to play," concluded the statement.

Racers officials, however, insist the club has not folded.

They are also optimistic that "professional hockey will return to the capital, hopefully within a season or two" - probably at a new venue.

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