Ice hockey: Taylor strives to secure future

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THE Superleague chief executive, Ian Taylor, yesterday revealed plans which will help safeguard the future of elite ice hockey in Britain on the day when George Dodds, the Sheffield Steelers owner, took a giant step to prevent his club from folding.

Taylor has been working to ensure Superleague is seen as a thriving business and to offset the losses accrued in their first two years. The key to this has been the acquisition of a title sponsor - the small print will be finalised today before being formally announced in two weeks' time - not only for financial reasons, but also in terms of marketing the sport.

This has clearly helped Taylor, eager to promote the sport and attract a broader fan base, agree a new deal with Sky and finally with terrestrial television.

There will be a mixture of live games and highlights on both, generating unheard of exposure for a game which had previously been restricted to the odd match on terrestrial television in pre-Superleague days and satellite since.

Taylor said: "The key is to have strong marketing partners. Far more important than a few hundred thousand pounds in sponsorship is the marketing drive which a title sponsor can give us. I don't believe Superleague should be subsidising teams. I believe the clubs should be viable as a business in their own right."

Taylor confirmed Superleague will have eight teams next season, despite recent speculation that both Sheffield and Newcastle Cobras would fold this summer.

Dodds personally wrote out a cheque for pounds 100,000 during a news conference yesterday morning, guaranteeing the Sheffield club's immediate future.