Eastbourne Speedway begin their 2020 campaign with a mouth-watering home Championship league fixture against Poole.
The two giants of South Coast speedway will lock horns for the first time since 2014 when they meet on Saturday, April 4, at Arlington Stadium.
South East neighbours Kent make their visit to Sussex on June 21. Both Poole and Kent are newcomers this year to the Championship.
Kent have moved up from the National Development League and Poole have dropped down from the Premiership.
The changes of leagues means the Eagles have real local derbies this year – last season their nearest rivals were Leicester and Somerset.
Defending Championship title-holders Leicester come to Eastbourne on May 17.
Eastbourne face Poole in the KO Cup in the middle of June.
Eastbourne Speedway Director Ian Jordan, said:
“It is very exciting and will be a massive challenge to start with a Championship match against Poole on April 4th.
“The fact that four Clubs in the South, who we have to race against twice home and away, ride on the same night (Wednesday) means there is little or no opportunity to race any form of warm-up Challenge match to start the season.
“However, we will ensure that all of the team are absolutely fit and ready to go on Saturday, April 4.
“Unfortunately we have no Easter fixtures at Arlington this year.
“We did consider Home and Away v Poole on Good Friday but the fact that Poole could only race at home in the evening would have meant a very early start at Arlington (11 or 11.30am).
“Logistically, with some riders involved in Premiership league matches the night before – and also the strong probability of very heavy Bank Holiday traffic – we decided to restrict our Good Friday to the away Fixture at Poole.”
Jordan said an added consideration was the huge amount of roadworks planned on the A27 in this period from Worthing to Chichester and also along a 12-mile stretch of the M27.
“This would also not have fitted in well with our ‘community ethos’ of team and supporters mingling before and after racing, with everyone having to rush off to Poole immediately the morning fixture was completed.
“There is no opportunity to use the Stadium on Easter Saturday / Easter Sunday due to a non-motorsport event on Easter Sunday that had a prior booking,” Jordan said.
Eastbourne have tried where possible to avoid clashes with Speedway Grand Prix, although there are two scheduled.
The first is Saturday, June 13, for the KO Cup match against Poole when the following day is Euro 2020 Soccer opener for England at Wembley.
Jordan said: “Our considered opinion is that a KOC match against our local rivals taking on the SGP is commercially better than taking on the soccer the next day.
“The other occasion that we are aware of is Saturday 15th August when we clash with Manilla Swedish GP but this can’t be avoided and the mouth-watering prospect of a match v Glasgow in the Championship should ensure a bumper attendance and terrific occasion.”
The Northern Tour is scheduled for Friday to Sunday, July 10 to 12, and the Newcastle match is brought forward to the afternoon as the Euro 2020 soccer final is on the Sunday evening. The big benefit for the team and supporters will be less time hanging around on the Sunday and an earlier finish and trip home after the Newcastle match.
Eastbourne are aware of various Under 19 and 21 fixtures in UK and Europe (specifically on June 6) that may involve some of the club’s riders and the fixture on August 22 – a date the Eagles had asked to be kept free. This may, therefore, be changed but the aim is to do this as quickly as possible.
Jordan commented: “It is our avowed intention to support our young riders and Speedway Team GB wherever possible in 2020 in their determination to build a fantastic future for British riders with the current excellent crop of young talent.”
The Cardiff GP on Saturday, July 18, will be preceded by the Championship Pairs at Somerset the night before and the Championship Fours at Leicester on the day after, making it a bumper speedway weekend.
The Bank Holiday weekend in early May, which incorporates a special Friday VE Bank Holiday, is reserved for the Speedway of Nations at Belle Vue and explains why there are no fixtures that weekend.
Stock cars have a big meeting anyway on the Bank Holiday Friday at Arlington Stadium by prior agreement.
Eastbourne will confirm Sunday afternoon start times in due course.
“We are very mindful of ‘dust concerns’ that a small number of fans have and also that riders don’t particularly like.
“We will therefore start some Sunday fixtures (especially those when there is no school the next day) at 5.00 or 5.30pm to ensure that the heat has dissipated a little and also to allow plenty of time for proper watering of the track earlier in the day,” said Jordan.
He added: “Finally, a big THANK YOU to a number of promoters especially Len Silver (Kent), Matt Ford (Poole), Alan Dick (Glasgow) and those at Scunthorpe, Newcastle, Somerset and Birmingham who have worked with us to make changes to the initial draft to ensure that as many matches as possible are on days when promoting clubs want them.
“It bodes well for the season and The Championship as the league to be in.
How the league will work in 2020
The Championship will operate a new-style league format in 2020 aimed at giving clubs more meaningful and more local fixtures.
Clubs will be split into North and South sections, and will race the other clubs from their section twice and home and twice away, whilst facing those from the opposite section once at home and once away. In addition, the play-offs for the second tier have been extended and will feature the top six clubs
To view the fixture list, please click here
Image Credit: Mike Hinves