Beleaguered Basingstoke Bison are quitting the Elite League and dropping down to the English Premier League.

The Bison - a founding Elite League team - took the decision following a dreadful season where the club was bailed out before the first game was played and failed to make the play-offs after recording just a handful of wins from 54 games.

Planet Ice, who took over the Bison when former owner Tomas Enerston departed in October, have agreed that next season the club will, subject to League Management Committee approval, renew rivalries with local rivals such as Bracknell Bees, Guildford Flames and Slough Jets.

John Neville, Planet Ice group operations director, said: "It is no secret that for the last couple of seasons the Bison have struggled to compete on a level playing field within the Elite League and have lost substantial amounts of money."

He thanked the fans for their support, hoped they understood the decision to relegate the club and would continue to support the Bison next season.

Mr Neville also thanked the Elite League, but added: "The time is now right for the club to move to the EPL.

"We are currently talking to parties who have shown an interest in running the team and are also talking to interested coaches and players with a view to next season."

Elite league chairman Eamon Convery said the Bison had worked tirelessly to turn around the team's performance on and off the ice.

He said: "Progress was made. However it is also accepted that their future lies outside membership of the Elite Ice Hockey League."