When the Glasgow Clan last left the Braehead Arena ice over 130 days ago after a disappointing 2-0 defeat to the Manchester Storm, the most pressing issue on the minds of many fans was securing a playoff berth or maybe even trying to avoid traffic on the way home. 

Few could have predicted as they left Braehead that it would be their final home game of the season, that it would be head coach Zack Fitzgerald’s last home game, and that they would soon be posing questions about the future of the league, their home arena and more.

Just two weeks later hockey fans across the UK were informed that In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) had cancelled all matches with immediate effect, voiding the UK's EIHL season with just six games left. 

What followed for the Clan was the departure of their head coach and constant speculation about the future of their home arena at Braehead, which is owned by Intu. The real estate company soon tumbled into administration after struggling under a £4.5 billion debt burden, coupled with significantly lower rent payments from retail tenants since the coronavirus outbreak. 

HeraldScotland: A full Braehead Arena for the Matt Haywood testimonial. The Clan have been at Braehead Arena since 2010. Picture; Al GooldA full Braehead Arena for the Matt Haywood testimonial. The Clan have been at Braehead Arena since 2010. Picture; Al Goold

Despite the announcement of administration from Intu, the official arena owners, The Clan were quick to update fans on their home rink situation, thanks to a conscious effort from those running the day-to-day operation of the club.

Speaking exclusively to The Herald, Glasgow Clan chief operating officer Gareth Chalmers said: “We’ve been very proactive with the unravelling situation with Intu, since the premature end to the 2019/20 season we’ve continued to have consistent dialogue with the Braehead Arena management. 

“We understand the Arena will remain open while the group administrators look at options for the venue. 

“We have a very solid and sustainable club, a very ambitious club that wants to continue to grow and win trophies, so we’ll continue to work along with Braehead Arena as we focus on the new season.”

HeraldScotland: Braehead is one of many retail outlets owned by the financially-troubled company IntuBraehead is one of many retail outlets owned by the financially-troubled company Intu

Chalmers, who has been part of the Glasgow Clan since 2013, also admitted that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the day-to-day operations at the club. Speaking on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on sport and The Clan he said: “The Covid-19 situation has been nothing but catastrophic. 

“We lost our final three or four home games, the league lost the playoff finals weekend and ultimately it has cost the Clan in the region of £150k to £200k. For a club like ourselves, that’s roughly 15% to 20% of our annual turnover.”

He also admitted that the uncertainty around the future of the league had put a number of plans, in particular the recruitment of new players and the appointment of a new head coach, on hold. He said: “I made the decision a couple of weeks ago to put our discussions on hold. 

READ MORE: Are these the most dedicated fans in Britain? An away day with the Glasgow Clan

“At that time we didn’t have a defined plan, little idea when the season would start and it was becoming apparent that it would be impossible and not fair on the candidates to proceed any further.

HeraldScotland: Zack Fitzgerald left as coach of The Clan in April this year. Zack Fitzgerald left as coach of The Clan in April this year.

“We now have a much coherent plan, so we’re now back to assessing our options and talking to our targets. We’re no different to a lot of teams in Europe and even Cardiff, it’s probably the most difficult environment to be recruiting a new head coach, however, I’m confident we’ll get the guy we’re looking for.”

He also hinted at a change in recruitment strategy at the club saying: “I can assure Clan fans that the situation is very much under control, there is a lot of experience around the club when it comes to recruitment. 

“While we’re still talking to coaching candidates, we’re also continuing to talk to players about returning while also tracking potential new additions for the club. 

“That’s no different to any season.

“We will likely see a substantial change in our recruitment this year. 

“I really want to bring down the age of our team, focus on signing hard-working, ambitious, young and exciting players for the club. 

“We’re already working with our contacts in USports and NCAA in North America to scout and source the type of players we want to build the club around.”

Sport across the UK is in unknown territory, with every-day events at the mercy of Covid-19 and steps to prevent the spread of the virus curtailing what would be the norm in the sporting entertainment industry. However, the EIHL is in the particularly rare situation for sports in the UK, having teams across all four home nations competing in the same league. This provides a host of challenges in a regular competitive season let alone in a future season that could be subjected to restrictions such as social distancing, lockdowns, reduced capacities and travel limitations. 

HeraldScotland: The Clan last played at home in February. Picture; Al Goold before The Clan last played at home in February. Picture; Al Goold before

Although some sports are contemplating the prospect of beginning with a reduced capacity, this was quickly dismissed by Chalmers as an option for hockey in the UK. 

Speaking on the matter, he said: “The start of the season is very much reliant on social distancing and how that develops. Let me reaffirm that with social distancing, sport at our level is simply not viable. 

“We’ve built various plans and assessed a number of different scenarios, however it simply doesn’t add up the club starting the season with reduced capacity for home games. It would be fatal to even attempt to start the season. 

Many hockey fans have expressed their concern for the future of the game in the UK as a result of the pandemic. Before the Glasgow Clan released a statement regarding their home rink, many supporters from clubs around the UK posted messages of support regarding the future of the club. While rivals on the ice, the importance of professional hockey in Glasgow is something that is seen and acknowledged as being vitally important by opposition fans and those in the EIHL for the good of the game in the UK.

READ MORE:  Life on ice: How Glasgow Clan have rallied to prepare for post-shutdown

Addressing the future of the Clan and the EIHL as a whole, Chalmers, who previously had a stint at the Newcastle Vipers before they folded in 2011, said: “There are no concerns for the future of the professional game in the UK, it’s just an important time for the EIHL to be adaptable to the changing world around us. 

“The EIHL is the most solid and sustainable top league we have ever had in the UK. It’s a time we need to be flexible, be aware of the various hurdles from the economic impact to how this will affect the sporting aspect of the league.

“It’s a time where the club’s and sport must be open to change, as it’s very much survival of the fittest.

HeraldScotland: Picture; Al Goold Picture; Al Goold

“The Clan have become an absolute integral part of the EIHL, to the extent of being one of the flagship organisations. 

“Having a professional hockey club in one of the UK’s biggest cities and one that is world-renowned and has been a major positive for the EIHL. 

“From a Scottish perspective the viability of Dundee and Fife is linked to having Glasgow in the league, and vice versa. While we are big rivals on the ice, a lot of collective hard work goes on behind the scenes to ensure all clubs are sustainable and successful at this level.”