HOW can Bison fans be facing the prospect that their team is facing a week-by-week struggle to survive when just a few weeks ago owner Tomas Enerston told them it had been saved?

How can it be that in their 20th anniversary year, Basingstoke’s best-supported sports club is left with such an uncertain future?

Those are just two of the questions that will today be on the lips of the Bison’s supporters as they come to terms with the fact that their club is, once again, struggling to make ends meet.

The package that was put together to keep the club on the ice at the beginning of September – following the collapse of the airline that sponsors the players’ flights and the loss of another key sponsor – has, sadly, failed to secure the team’s long-term future.

Bison fans – who donated £9,000 in two hours at a crisis meeting – and the generosity of Cardiff Devils owner Matt Burge looked to have saved the day.

At the time, Herd owner Mr Enerston told The Gazette: “It has been an amazing effort. With the money from Matt Burge, we are now on a stable footing as we start the season. Now we are getting ready for what I think will be an exciting season.”

However, this week, Mr Enerston admitted that all the rescue package cash has gone which means that once again the Bison are facing a battle for funding.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Enerston told The Gazette: “The £30,000 we received at the beginning of the season has all gone. We are always going to struggle and we will continue to struggle week-by-week, but our aim is to make it to the end of the season.”

The Gazette spoke to Mr Enerston after head coach Ryan Aldridge shocked fans by announcing he was to quit. He cited office issues surrounding the team, involving wages, equipment, accommodation and transport, as his reasons for handing in his notice.

Mr Enerston admitted to The Gazette that, once again, things are looking difficult for the Bison – just 11 months on from when he saved the Herd following the ill-fated David Taylor regime.

Last week, not all the players were paid on time, which caused their training session on Thursday to be cancelled.

Mr Enerston confirmed that was the case and said: “Some of the guys were paid late. I did not put the money in the bank early enough and one of them was paid twice.”

The equipment for the players is now down to its bare bones and Mr Enerston admits that he is not going to have a larger stick store.

On Sunday, the team had to buy a left-handed stick from Manchester Phoenix, for Danny Stewart, before they played the north-west team.

Mr Enerston told The Gazette: “Two sticks for each guy should be enough. I am sure they will only break one a weekend and if more break then they can borrow someone else’s.”

There is also no money to make changes to the team as the Herd try and break their losing streak. So far, the team have lost all 12 Elite League games.

Mr Enerston said: “We know we need to make changes, but it is a tough one as it is going to cost money and I just don’t know if we can afford that right now.”

On Tuesday, in response to fans’ concerns, Mr Enerston posted the Bison’s financial outgoings so far this season on an Elite League forum. They add up to £131,000.

The defiant owner was yesterday adamant that his team will be on the ice for what is three games in four days. That will start on Saturday when they entertain the Hull Stingrays, with the return in Hull the following night.

On Tuesday, the team are due to travel to Edinburgh.

Mr Enerston said: “All the players will be paid this week, so we will have a team and expect us to be on the ice for all three games.”

Stewart Little, chairman of the Basingstoke Bison Supporters Club and a key player with his committee members in the September fundraising drive, is stunned by the precarious situation that the Herd are now in.

“I am shocked and it is very disappointing what is happening,” he said.

“I am sure there are a number of annoyed fans out there, asking where has all the money gone. I can’t see the fans dipping into their pockets again.”