Steelers taken on by owner of league rivals

BOB PHILLIPS'S controversial time as owner of the Sheffield Steelers has ended after a deal was reached to sell the club to Paul Ragan, owner of Elite League rivals Cardiff Devils.

The sale follows a turbulent few months for the Steelers which began back in May when the club's operating company went bust, owing thousands.

A walk-out of the management team, including general manager Mike O'Connor and then head coach Dave Matsos followed weeks later, forcing the Phillips and his wife Maraini to undertake a more hands-on approach, with the latter replacing O'Connor as GM.

Speculation persisted for weeks ahead of the 2010-11 campaign that the club would be unable to start the season and that players would not turn up.

But after appointing new player-coach Ben Simon, the 2009 double winners have produced an entertaining and so far successful brand of hockey, sitting second in the Elite League table with games in hand on current leaders Belfast Giants.

Mrs Phillips said now was the right time for the club to be taken forward under new ownership.

"Ticket sales for the Boing Day clash with the Nottingham Panthers are already in excess of 4,500 and for the club to have a fresh start this is the best possible time to do the hand over," she said.

"I would like to thank all the sponsors, supporters and players who have given me and the team their full support as we worked to make the business a success.

"And I would particularly like to thank head coach Ben Simon for his hard work, dedication and support."

New owner Ragan said he intended to meet with supporters' groups as soon as possible to outline his plans for the club.

"My intention is to provide this great club with the organisation and commercial processes it needs to return to the glory days," said Ragan, who became CEO at CARdiff only last March.

"I am an entrepreneur at heart and my speciality is acquisition, fast growth and returning companies to profit.

"My focus at Cardiff has been to stabilise, structure and develop the commercial side of the business whilst giving our head coach the best possible chance to bring on-ice success to the club."