*note-I have EXTREMELY limited knowledge of company law-all the following is presented without any “legal” comments, and is based on my research and my conversations with my contacts in UK hockey.
In April this year, a mysterious new Twitter account appeared around the edges of the UK hockey Twittersphere. Scarcely noticed, @UKHockeyLeague boasts in its bio
: “Coming soon, the only league that counts!”.
In the two months since its formation, whoever runs the account has tweeted only 38 times, mostly general hockey-related tweets. However, in amongst those tweets is a link to a website
, which claims to be a holding page for the “United Kingdom Hockey League”. Dig through the tweets on the account is a further link to what purports to be the new league’s facebook page
…a page containing general hockey pictures and a few cryptic messages like a picture of a circle of hockey sticks with the caption “SOMEONE DROP THE PUCK!”.
However, potentially the most interesting thing on that page is the mission statement, which was posted on the page on May 3rd and is reproduced below:
UKHL Mission Statement
Founded in 2013, the UK Hockey League (UKHL) is an organization developing marketing and promoting the sport of ice hockey in the United Kingdom.
The objectives of the UKHL are:
To govern, develop and promote ice hockey throughout the United Kingdom
To develop and control ice hockey in the United Kingdom
To operate in an organized manner for the benefit of the sport
The UKHL will take all necessary measures to attain the following:
Conduct the affairs according to its Statutes, Bylaws and Regulations
Arrange sponsorships, media coverage, license rights, advertising and merchandising in connection with all UKHL teams
Uniform all regulations and official playing rules
Aid in the development of young players
Aid in the development of coaches and game officials
Organize all events of the UKHL
Oversee the acquisition of players
Develop a strong relationship with the NHL and the NHL alumni
What we’re seeing here, then, purports to be a new central organisation for hockey in the UK-an attempt to set up a new centrally-administrated league that, if even a few of its objectives are implemented, has the potential to revolutionise the game in this country. More importantly, the UKHL Twitter makes references to a “former NHL alumnus” as Commissioner of the new league, hints at media coverage through-indeed, possible live streaming of highlights or every game through FASThockey, one of the top (non-pirate) live hockey streaming sites on the Internet.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Instantly, though, the questions start. Where did this come from? Who’s involved in it? Who’s running it? And if the league is going to start in 2013, then where are the teams? And most importantly, with UK hockey being the small, rumour-ridden world it is, why has there been no whisper of it whatsoever amongst fans of the sport?
I started looking into this, researching the Twitter accounts, putting feelers out amongst my contacts and links around UK hockey, both in Coventry and around the EIHL. I also used the freely-available information on Companies House and similar websites to see if I could find out more about the UKHL, the company claiming to be involved in launching it-Go Sports Partners Ltd, or the directors of the company. Here’s what I’ve found so far. And it’s full of…well…problems:
1. Where are the teams?
So far, sources in Coventry, Belfast and Braehead have said “nope, the team owners/GMs know nothing about this”. So-that’s three out of the top ten teams in the UK that the UKHL organisers, seemingly haven’t approached yet. Are the UKHL leaving out three of the three top ten teams of the country in the new league, then? Seems suicidal to me.
2. Appearances are deceptive. Especially on Twitter.
Look at that UKHL profile linked earlier, and you see that they’re following all the teams you’d expect an account of a new UK hockey league with ambitions of international reach to follow. Follower-wise, it seems they’ve managed to gain nearly 4200 followers since April. Impressive, right?
Not if you dig slightly deeper. Sure, the UKHL account follows all the hockey clubs, leagues and organisations you’d expect, but it also follows a bluegrass band from Australia, a 2011 X-Factor finalist, several US country music singers and…um…Gary Barlow. Seems a bit weird for a hockey league to be following a whole bunch of musicians, doesn’t it?
Let’s look at those 4,000+ followers, too. If you’ve been around Twitter for a while you can usually spot the “real” profiles from the “fake”, created either as spambots or as fodder to be bought in lots of a 1000 to artificially increase a “Twitter follower” count and give your outfit the look of having more reach than it actually does. And if you’re involved in social media like I am, it’s an instant sign that something’s up-you look for patterns in the follower counts, types, anomalies in Twitter or “real” names, and repeated Tweets. The UKHL followers seem to have those types in abundance-Here’s a typical one
of those 4,000+ followers-does that Twitter profile look a little off to you? It should. Like many of the others, it’s a classic computer-generated “ghost follower”.
There ARE some genuine UK hockey fans following the account-but they’re all at the top of the feed. I’d estimate the real number of followers on this account is probably around 10 people.
3. Web Of Intrigue.
You’d think a “new league” on the verge of launching would have a logo, a possible website design and some sort of web presence out there, wouldn’t you? The UKHL AND GO SP Ltd have….Godaddy.com web holding pages (known as registration blanks) that simply hold a domain name. Nothing else. Where’s the information, the web presence, the prospective league logo, even the Mission Statement, for god’s sake…any of it?! Nowhere, it appears.
4. In Bad Company
Using the Companies House website, I did some digging into GO Sports Partners Ltd, the company claiming to be “launching” the UKHL (which, don’t forget, has no teams yet and hasn’t approached some of the biggest in Britain to be involved, as far as we know). GO SP Ltd was founded on 30 April this year, and has one director, a Mr. Stephen Brown, who also serves as company secretary. Mr. Brown previously served as director of Harrogate Media Ltd-both HML and GO SP have a registered address at a “virtual office” in London (the same one, interestingly).
During his time at Harrogate Media Brown was in partnership with a Mr. Paul Ubsdell until 3rd June this year. A simple Google search will bring up accusations of scamming by Ubsdell in connection with another of his companies-Provartis AG. Hm. Not the nicest of bedfellows, is it?
Mr Brown has held no directorships before Harrogate Media as far as can be seen through Companies House…and Harrogate Media itself was set up only 6 months ago.
Summary: A Sorry-Looking Mess
So, what we have here is a company run by one person who has six months experience of company directorship, coming out of nowhere claiming to be setting up a new top ice hockey league in the UK, without approaching the already-established teams within it and with seemingly dubious business associates. On top of that, this “league” has produced no announcements, no press PR yet, has no planned logo or website or any evidence of being close to having one for its supposed launch with the new hockey season only three months away, and appears to be artificially boosting its Twitter follower count in an attempt to seem legitimate, while making claims of plans to affiliate with the biggest league in the world and set up a centrally-run UK league without the involvement of at least several of the current top clubs in the UK, at least.
Aye, Alright then.
At the very, very best this is a horrendous way to start an attempt to reform British ice hockey. At the worst (and far more plausibly), it’s an empty promise that’s not worth the paper its written on.
I’ve been critical of British ice hockey’s organisation before but somehow, even based on this relatively brief research,I can see that once you dig even slightly below the superficial promises this is an amateurish, poorly-put together chimera of a thing. If it is a serious bid, it would be ripped apart by anyone-it’s a house of cards that falls apart under even the slightest pressure.
The weirdest thing about this bid is quite simple…where’s it come from? A bid/attempt so paper-thin and held up with vague promises of partnerships with the NHL and media coverage surely must fail under even the slightest scrutiny by any UK team-no team in the sport will want to become involved right now on face value.
So what is this, and what’s the point of it? Frankly, UK hockey fandom, right now your guess is as good as mine. But it doesn’t look like it’s worth the UK hockey hierarchy paying any serious attention to, at least not right now.
And as for that “mission statement”? Frankly, getting anyone to believe this is a serious attempt to achieve it based on the current efforts will be Mission Impossible.