Bandits co-promoter positive over league restructuring

British speedway is set to undergo its biggest revamp of the sport in modern history.

Monday, 7th November 2016, 3:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 2:53 pm
Berwick Bandits speedway at Shielfield.

Club bosses spent three days voting through plans to restructure league racing in the UK.

Berwick Bandits’ new co-promoter Scott Courtney attended the The British Speedway Promoters’ Association AGM at the Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire.

Courtney was at his first AGM for all three days with outgoing owner John Anderson also in attendance on the Tuesday to wrap up the past season’s business.

“I went with an open mind,” said Courtney. “Having said that, I felt a very positive vibe coming from the other clubs towards changes for 2017.

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“The new set-up for next season fully meets with our approval and in all honesty followed the blueprint we had in mind at Berwick.”

The leagues have been re-branded Speedway Great Britain (SGB) Premiership and SGB Championship, and promotion and relegation has been introduced with the leagues coming closer together.

The winners of the Championship play-offs will race the Premiership’s bottom club to decide who rides in the 2018 SGB Premiership.

Courtney added: “I realise that the new SGB Championship has been reduced to ten teams, but with the end of the old League Cup it means we race our opponents home and away twice in league action.

“It is also pleasing that all our ‘local derby’ fixtures will still happen in 2017.

“Plymouth have withdrawn from our league but as I understand it would still like to be running in some way, while Somerset and Rye House have moved to the new Premiership.”

In the KO Cup, Berwick will meet Ipswich early season home and away, the third season running they have been paired with the Suffolk club in the competition.

“There are a lot of other positive moves coming to the fore, we cannot wait to get our teeth into things now,” Courtney added.

“Jamie [Courtney], Gary [Havelock], Dennis [McCleary] and I will be meeting up to discuss a variety of matters and we are already putting plans in place to move our team building (under the 40 point guidelines) drawn up and approved.

“We want to provide an action-packed, entertaining Saturday night for everyone in attendance and, of course, by nature we will be aiming to win matches in spectacular fashion.

“The previous limitations being lifted on riders doubling-up can only capture the imagination of the fans and I’ve come home to Berwick very excited to get our 2017 plans well under way.”

There was good news for fans of troubled Leicester and Belle Vue, with both clubs, who boast a rich heritage, ready to come to the tapes again, and at the top level.

Workington are expected to take their place in the Championship, but this is subject to confirmation.

The same rules and race format for, last season’s PL programme, will apply to both leagues. That means tactical rides are available when 10 points down from heats 5-12.

The injury rider-replacement rule will also now be in place in both leagues.

And the season will start with Knockout Cup meetings at both levels before the launch of the new leagues.

All riders will now have one average, based on Premier League figures, for team building purposes with a 50-point limit for the top division and 40 for the Championship.

It means riders who only raced in the Elite League last season will see their average increased by 1.4 to bring them in line with Premier League averages.

The only difference in team building rules between the leagues is that Championship clubs must include a British youngster with a three-point average.

And in a bid to help young riders get team spots, any rider who hasn’t achieved a three-point average will come in on a minimum of two.

No team changes will be permitted in either league after July 31.

The British Speedway Promoters’ Association also intend to work with the new Gerhard engine after a visit to the Switzerland base of the GTR.

This will reduce costs for riders with engines typically needing a fraction of the servicing of other engines.

Promoters feel this dramatic revamp was necessary in a financially challenging climate, and whilst chairman Keith Chapman admits there is an element of cost cutting, there is plenty for fans and sponsors to be excited about.

He said: “This was probably the best AGM I’ve been to in all my time in the sport.

“There was a genuine desire to try and change things and secure the future of league racing in the UK. I certainly think we have done that and I’m very excited about the months ahead.

“Every promoter acknowledged something had to be done after some very difficult times for the sport – now we’ve done something and I’m looking forward to a bright future.”

Vice-Chairman Rob Godfrey said: “I believe we have achieved a total restructuring of British Speedway.

“We have created leagues which are sustainable and have a structure with promotion and relegation and the same rules.

“Now we have rebranded the sport, it’s time to deliver.”

SGB Premiership: Belle Vue, Coventry, King’s Lynn, Leicester, Poole, Rye House, Somerset, Swindon, Wolverhampton.

SGB Championship: Berwick, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ipswich, Newcastle, Peterborough, Redcar, Scunthorpe, Sheffield, Workington* (*subject to confirmation).

Two home, two away, top four into play-offs.

Knockout Cup draw - Premiership) Preliminary Round: Somerset v Leicester. First Round: Rye House v Swindon, King’s Lynn v Leicester or Somerset, Wolverhampton v Coventry, Belle Vue v Poole.

Championship Preliminary Round: Peterborough v Redcar, Workington v Newcastle. First Round: Scunthorpe v Peterborough or Redcar, Glasgow v Workington or Newcastle, Berwick v Ipswich, Edinburgh v Sheffield.