For 2 years, Totally Wicked have proudly sponsored local Ice Hockey team, Blackburn Eagles, with the Totally Wicked logo featuring prominently on the Eagles’ jersey.
An impressive season has seen the Eagles dominate the Laidler conference and recently claim the title with games still to spare. This is a huge step forward from last season when they finished 4th and previous seasons where they hardly won a game. However, unfortunately for the team and all involved with the club, celebrations are being overshadowed due to issues that have occurred off the ice.
With the Eagles battling for fans with local rivals, Blackburn Hawks, they have found it difficult to sustain a steady revenue from ticket sales and rely quite heavily on funding from sponsorship deals. This, coupled with ongoing battles between them and local organisations, has made the Eagles’ life in the Laidler conference more difficult than it should have been.
These issues have recently been stepped up a notch with owners of Blackburn Ice Arena, Silver Blades presenting new terms regarding the Eagles’ hire of the rink.
“On 13th March the Eagles management team received official correspondence from the Blackburn Ice Arena Management. The letter confirmed that the Eagles would now face a flat weekly cost for ice time throughout the season, rather than an hourly charge dependant on usage. The new flat rate works out that the Eagles would be required to pay double the amount over the course of the season in comparison to what they have paid for the 2016/17 season”
As if this wasn’t enough, Blackburn Ice Arena issued a new company policy stating that there will be “no internal advertising of Alcohol and Nicotine products including but not limited to shirt advertising”. This, from a venue which has advertised alcohol for the past 20 years. In their Press Release the Eagles explain this would “Mean that after 2 years of financial support, our local booming business Totally Wicked, taking pride of place on the front of the Eagles shirts, would no longer be able to be the main sponsor for the team.”
British Ice Hockey (BIH) have been following the case closely and with headlines such as ‘Barnett: Eagles “forced” to call it a day’, ‘Twitter Talk: Fans in uproar as Eagles are forced out’ and ‘Kick one and you kick them all’ it seems that BIH are sympathetic towards the Eagles.
BIH released another article recently, which delved further into the aforementioned advertising ban:
The policy ‘precludes advertising across a range of media platforms, as well as in activities which take place in two or more European Economic States.’
The rink owners, Silver Blades, issued an in-depth statement to the Lancashire Telegraph earlier this week which included the following comments:
“Although this directive is open to interpretation, the activity of ice hockey clearly takes place in two or more EEA states.”
“Additionally, games at Blackburn Ice Arena, including some featuring the Blackburn Eagles, are featured on television.”
However, Totally Wicked Technical Director Liam Humberstone has criticised the decision.
He confirmed that the company consulted with Department of Health, MHRA, Trading Standards and the Committee for Advertising Practice on the matter of sporting event sponsorship in 2016.
“The suggestion that a national ice hockey event in Blackburn is in any way taking place in more than one EEA state, or that it is having an effect in more than one state is ludicrous,” he said.
“Silver Blades’ position is completely at odds with a consultation position on national level sponsorship that has been ratified for us by qualified legal opinion, and after extensive consultation with interested legislative bodies.”
It’s clear that the decision by Silver Blades is unpopular with a number of different parties and speaking with Lancashire Telegraph, chairman of the Blackburn Ice Hockey Development Association Matt Strong said:
“The sport needs a clear league structure to avoid a repeat of the furore surrounding Blackburn Eagles.”
He also had his say on the advertising policy:
“If that is a policy that is being introduced across all Silver Blades rinks then we can have no complaints. But from some of the information presented to the Eagles it looks as though they are being victimised. However, I don’t think that is the case.”
It is a sad time for both Blackburn Eagles and Totally Wicked who have thoroughly enjoyed working with a great group of people. It has been great to support a local sports team and to see them improve so dramatically in the 2016/17 season brings great pride.
It is a shame that their success has built up to a fall but we wish everybody involved with the club the best of luck in the future and in the upcoming Play-offs. We hope that this unfortunate turn of events won’t cast a shadow over what has been a brilliant season for the Eagles and that the lads continue to make an impression on the ice.