Struggling Newcastle Vipers put up for sale

NEWCASTLE Vipers are up for sale. The Elite League strugglers are in discussions about selling a stake in the club.

NEWCASTLE Vipers are up for sale. The Elite League strugglers are in discussions about selling a stake in the club.

And chairman Paddy O’Connor has admitted he would be prepared to hand over 100%, even if it left him out of pocket.

The Vipers welcome Braehead Clan to Hillheads on a high tonight after consecutive morale-boosting victories in the last week. But it should not disguise the fact they are only a point off the bottom of the table, and running a skeleton squad.

O’Connor acknowledges that reinforcements are desperately needed, but none will be forthcoming without new investment.

Asked what form any investment might take and when it might materialise, the former Great Britain international was unable to provide any concrete answers. “They’re very open discussions at the moment and there’s anonymity clauses involved,” he said. “Talks are literally ongoing but I would like to be able to say things will happen very soon.

“From a personal point of view as long as the club’s secure, financially and personally I’m not really interested.”

O’Connor only returned to the club as chairman this summer, having initially been in charge between 2005 and 2007.

Since the Elite League’s formation, the gap between rich and poor has never been wider.

With a ten-point gap between fifth and sixth in the table, it is very obvious where the fault line lies. Very definitely in the latter group, the Vipers are struggling to keep their heads above water.

“It’s difficult times,” admitted O’Connor. “We haven’t managed to get the revenues we would like.

“We’re working around the clock to bring a deal together where we could have some additional investment.

“No matter what happens, the people who own the Newcastle Vipers are only ever the patrons of the club. One day it could be passed to someone else.

“I know it sounds like a cliché but it’s a sporting club and it belongs to the people.”

O’Connor’s involvement with the Vipers has always been based more on a passionate desire to see the sport thrive again in the North East than any financial motives.

And he has reassured fans he would rather lose money than see the region’s only professional side go to the wall.

Newcastle’s problems are not helped by the fact they do not own their own venue, however. Having left Newcastle Arena because they could not afford the rent, they are now tenants of Whitley Warriors, a club from the part-time English National League.

“We’re working hard to secure investment and secure the club,” O’Connor reiterated. “Everyone’s trying hard to secure investment and secure the club. Everyone’s trying to keep everything alive until we can get into a facility where we can put down roots.”

Sunday’s win over Coventry was achieved with only two skaters, and recent signing Adam Reynolds will be unavailable tonight because the Warriors have first call on the forward’s services.

They have home-and-away matches against Sheffield Spartans in ENL North One this weekend, starting in South Yorkshire this evening.

The collapse of defenceman Nick Duff’s proposed move has left a gaping hole in Stewart’s roster, but O’Connor admits it will not be filled any time soon.

“In all honesty it depends on this investment,” he said. “He (Stewart) needs extra bodies, he definitely does.

“We face problems on a day-to-day basis. The gap between what we can spend and what other clubs can is huge. It’s something I’m not happy about and I want to see it changed.

“I think if we can get this investment secured, Danny’s spoken about his wish for new players and hopefully that will happen.”

Tonight’s game, which faces off at 7pm, is the Vipers’ only match of the weekend. The Clan are looking to end a run of four consecutive matches without a win.

 
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