The Odyssey Trust, owners of the Stena Line Belfast Giants, can confirm that the 2020-21 EIHL season has been suspended. The Elite League was scheduled to start on December 5th. Regrettably, current government guidelines on mass gatherings, social distancing and restrictions around travel, mean this will not be possible.
Over the last six months, The Belfast Giants have been working hard, alongside the other nine teams in the League to facilitate a return to play for the 2020-21 season. However, the club has been unable to find a model that is economically viable, meets all government guidelines and is safe for fans and players.
Sadly, a full EIHL season starting in 2020 with 10 teams is now no longer a viable option. The League is looking into the possibility of some form of ice hockey potentially taking place in the UK in early 2021, but this may not include all teams and is dependent on crowds being allowed back inside venues.
Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the sport, leisure and entertainment sectors. This will be the first time in the Belfast Giants’ 20-year history that the club will miss a season.
The Odyssey Trust is committed to the future of hockey in Belfast – with the Giants, as well as the Friendship Four NCAA competition. Therefore, the focus will now turn to implementing a return to business strategy for the 2021/22 Elite League season. The organisation is calling on the government for vital support as it begins to plan its roadmap to recovery.
Robert Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Odyssey Trust said: “Thanks to the Belfast Giants, ice hockey is now a mainstream sport of choice for many people in Northern Ireland. In the land of the Giants everyone is equal, regardless of class, creed or gender and that’s what make us special to so many of our fans, sponsors and supporters. Unfortunately, Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate either and we have been hit extremely hard by this virus. As a tier five business, we will be amongst the last to re-open.
“We are committed to safeguarding the future of the Belfast Giants and will prepare to return for the 2021-22 season, but Covid-19 still poses a very serious threat to our business. We are doing everything we can to mitigate this threat, but we also need government to step up and provide vital support to protect the future of our industry, which contributes so much, not just in significant economic impact but also as part of the cultural and social fabric of our city.”
Steve Thornton, Head of Hockey and Commercial, the Odyssey Trust said: “We hoped that this day would not come and it’s with a heavy heart that we confirm that the League has been suspended. It’s very disappointing but given the circumstances, there was no other option. We, like many clubs, have reached the point of no return for a 2020 start to the season; we need to start committing to significant expenses to build a team and with no government guidance on the timeline for the reintroduction of indoor sports events and mass gatherings, we simply can’t take that risk.
“We understand how difficult this news is going to be for our incredible fans, some of whom haven’t missed a game in 20 years. We want to assure you that we will do everything possible to bring ice hockey back to this amazing city at the earliest possible opportunity and that we will work hard to keep the Belfast Giants family connected, through a range of fan initiatives and events, which we will be announcing soon.”
Refunds for season ticket holders will be made available on request, via Ticketmaster from 3pm on Wednesday 16th September. However, to help the club plan for the future, The Giants are offering a range of benefits and incentives for 2020-21 season ticket holders, who choose to transfer to the 2021-22 season:
- 2020/21 package will be automatically become a season ticket for the 2021/22 season, with prices frozen.
- A £50 credit towards food and drinks at The SSE Arena, Belfast during the 2021/22 season.
- A bespoke 2020/21 jersey (worth £65) that won’t be available for sale anywhere else will be provided to . season ticket holders in advance of the 2021/22 season.
- Over the coming months, The Giants will host live fan events with Head Coach, Adam Keefe and other special guests that will be exclusive for 2021/22 season ticket holders. These events will be held online, for now, with a view to hosting these in person, when it is safe to do so.
- Lastly, as a special tribute, when the Belfast Giants return for the 2021/22 season, the names of all 2021/22 season ticket holders will be inscribed in the ice at the SSE Arena. The names will be on the ice, just inside the blue line on the end of the ice the Giants defends twice. So, away teams will not only have to defeat Belfast, the team – they will also have to defeat Belfast, the people.
For further information, visit www.belfastgiants.com