OXFORD City Stars admit they are gutted and frustrated at being forced to reject promotion.

Despite winning both the English National League South Division 2 title and the Division 2 championship, the county’s premier ice hockey team will not compete at a higher level next season.

And the reason is simple – they cannot yet afford to.

Although many fans were eager to see their team make the step up, the financial commitment had the potential to jeopardise the long-term future of the club.

Therefore it was decided they need to stay at the same level and reassess their position in another 12 months.

“We are all as disappointed as the supporters, if not more so, but it’s just not possible,” said director Russell Shrives.

“We were all gutted to take that decision, but we just do not have the finances.

“I cannot tell you how frustrating it is for us all, but we have to be responsible.”

Stars have made giant strides both on and off the ice over the past couple of years, with capacity crowds becoming a regular occurrence at Oxpens.

While the club have a steady stream of revenue coming in through sponsors, this would not come close to covering the extra costs a promotion would bring.

“We are trying to build a stable long-term club here and are two years into a five-year project,” Shrives said.

“You are talking about doubling the financial outlay if you move up a division – and that’s just not possible if we are going to make the club self-sufficient and sustainable.

“We have got a budget that would be at the top end for the league we are in, but would be one of the lowest in a division above.

“We would need a significantly higher playing budget and more ice time, neither of which we can sustain.”

He added: “We have done so much good work by going into schools, cubs, brownies and engaging with young people in the county and offering two-for-one tickets and other incentives.

“That side of things has been a great success, but there is still a lot more to do. We need to keep building our fan-base, bring in more commercial partners and make our junior section stronger.

“We are getting there, but going up a division at this stage would not be the right thing to do.

“We are all very frustrated but will keep working hard and see what we can achieve.”