Murrayfield Racers set to make return as Hand group wins ice rink contract

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Racers Leisure Limited have secured a contract to play ice hockey in Edinburgh and aim to compete under the name ‘Murrayfield Racers’.

The development looks set to spell the end for Edinburgh Capitals, with the rival group now looking to form a team to compete in the sport’s UK-wide Elite League.

Murrayfield Racers were one of the top teams in Britain

Murrayfield Racers were one of the top teams in Britain

Racers Leisure Limited, who include on their board of directors David Hand – the current chairman of the Scottish Ice Hockey Association and brother of Racers and Caps legend Tony Hand MBE – were battling with Cool House Marketing Limited, the new company behind Edinburgh Capitals, for the right to play at Murrayfield Ice Rink after bosses put the ice-time contract out to tender.

Following their successful bid, Hand and his fellow board members will now enter into negotiations with the Elite League to obtain a franchise in order to run a team out of Murrayfield.

A statement released by Racers Leisure Ltd today read: “Racers Leisure Ltd are delighted to announce they have secured a contract for ice time at Murrayfield Ice Rink for season 2018-19, as the directors of Murrayfield Ice Rink agreed with the vision of Racers Leisure Ltd for the future of ice hockey in Edinburgh.

“We will now formally contact the Elite League to secure the franchise for elite ice hockey in Edinburgh.”

When contacted by the Evening News, the Elite League provided the following statement: “The Elite League have been fully appraised of the situation regarding the Edinburgh Capitals and Murrayfield Ice Rink.

“At this time we’re awaiting further confirmation from Murrayfield regarding the ice contract and will make further comment in due course.”

Racers Leisure director David Hand said: “This is the decision we hoped for. It has been a team effort, as we presented a robust and sustainable business model with secure financial backing.

“The hard work now begins, as we have formally approached the Elite League to discuss Murrayfield Ice Rink’s decision and lay out our proposals and plans for the future.”

Hand’s group say they intend to operate the ‘highest level of ice hockey possible next season under the team name of Murrayfield Racers’. The Racers were a dominant team in UK ice hockey between 1966 and 1995, becoming British champions on six occasions. Their last major trophy was the 1993 Benson and Hedges Cup before the team went bust in controversial fashion at the end of the 1994-95 season.

Hand added: “Murrayfield Racers were a legendary team that brought a great style of hockey to Edinburgh. We intend to deliver a professional ice hockey operation out of Murrayfield both on and off the ice. We aim to achieve the heady heights of the old Racers and we will work extremely hard with the team, fans and sponsors to achieve this.”

Capitals have been tenants at Murrayfield throughout their 20-year history. With no alternative venue in the city, there would appear no future for the outfit.

Capitals have just endured a nightmare season which saw former owner Scott Neil’s holding company Capitals Hockey Limited forced into liquidation, and the team pick up just five league wins from their 56 game Elite League season.

The club last month announced a new board structure – including fan representation – ahead of next season’s campaign.

When contacted by the Evening News, no-one from Edinburgh Capitals was available for comment. However, the club have released a short statement which read: “Edinburgh Capitals have lost their bid for ice time at Murrayfield Ice Rink

“What this means for Edinburgh Capitals as a club going forward is yet to be decided at this early stage. More information will be provided as things become clearer.

“In the meantime, the club would like to thank everyone for their support so far”

Many ice hockey fans in the city remain concerned that should Racers Leisure Limited fail in their efforts to obtain an Elite League franchise, it would see the end of top-level professional ice hockey in Edinburgh.

And Murrayfield Ice Rink boss Richard Stirling admits Edinburgh ice hockey faces a period of uncertainty. He said: “We had a process yesterday where we reviewed and discussed the two bids that were in front of us. We made a decision, we have advised the bidders of the outcome, and also advised the league of the outcome.”

Asked if he felt the rink’s decision would help move the sport forward in the city, Stirling continued: “It’s possibly a time of uncertainty until the league make a decision whether to accept the option we’ve made. If they don’t, all I can say is there will definitely be ice hockey here in some form or another no matter what, because Murrayfield has a rich history of being associated with the sport.

“We need hockey here, and we have so many teams who use our ice and that’s not a problem. Yes, it’s nice to be flying at the highest level in the sport, but, if the league decides that’s not going to happen, it’s their decision not ours.”

When asked if the new agreement with Racers Leisure would also spell the end of Edinburgh Capitals’ Scottish National League team playing out of the rink, Stirling added: “The SNL side were not part of the contract that we had with the top-level team. That’s a separate issue entirely.”