Eastbourne Speedway plans to blast back into action on May 1 when the club stages the Championship of Sussex at Arlington Stadium.
It will herald the start of the 2021 season and a hectic month of racing for the HG Aerospace Eagles.
Last year, British Speedway was virtually wiped out because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the whole sport is hoping the pandemic’s grip will have weakened sufficiently for racing to begin in May.
An early season highlight will be the match against Poole which marks the return of the south coast derby – a feature for many years when both clubs were in the top division.
All the fixture details have been released and show the first away match is at Birmingham on May 19.
The Northern Tour is at the end of August with visits to Edinburgh, Berwick and Newcastle on successive nights.
In the KO Cup, Eastbourne will face the Kent Kings in a two-leg tie.
The 90th anniversary celebration meeting is due at the beginning of September.
Most home meetings are on a Saturday (7.30pm) with some matches on a Sunday (3.30pm or a 5pm start, which will be used to avoid the hottest weather conditions).
All fixtures are subject to change.
Eastbourne Speedway Director, Ian Jordan, said: “Our planned fixtures are obviously entirely dependent on the Covid-19 lockdown being eased and restrictions lifted.
“Fixture planning for all sports has to be entirely prioritised on the health and well-being of the population as a whole, our wonderful NHS, associated care functions and the absolute safety of anyone coming to watch Speedway, and all outdoor activities for the foreseeable future.
“We are increasingly positive about being able to start the season in the late spring.
“The BSPL (British Speedway governing body) have done an excellent job and are working closely with DCMS (Department of Culture Media and Sport) and believe the planned fixture list is achievable.
“We have an outstanding Stadium Health and Safety Officer at Arlington Stadium in Barry Johnson, supported by Neil Hollebon, and they are working closely with the relevant local authority departments.
“We are very grateful for all of their help and assistance.”
Jordan said Eastbourne Speedway supporters should expect matches to be all-ticket, with advance payments only and no cash or debit/credit card admissions on the day.
He said: “We have an excellent online ticketing capability which will be vital for the new season.
“It is simple and easy to use for both supporters and our administration and has the major benefit of creating its own ‘Covid-19 bubble’, capturing the data of everyone who purchases a ticket so that we can communicate with them, before and after meetings and pass on all kinds of news, advice and information.
“All 2021 matches will probably be strictly all-ticket with advance payment prior to the event to comply fully with Covid-19 regulations.
“We will be shortly issuing a full guide to show supporters how simple the system is to use and will aim to put match tickets ON SALE for all Speedway matches from no later than early March, or as soon as the Government produces a road-map out of lockdown.
“We expect the early fixtures at least to be subject to reduced and limited crowds.”
Our 2020 supporters who graciously rolled over their Season and 10-match season ticket holders will always have absolute and first priority.
For those who did not take up the offer in 2020, further five and ten-match ticket offers will become available from March 1.
We thank all of those supporters and all of our Sponsors, for their massive loyalty to the Club in very difficult financial times.
Jordan said the Eagles management were delighted with the club’s fixture list.
“We felt it best to give the team some competitive action before stepping into the league programme and bringing back the Championship of Sussex after a gap of some years is perfect.
“An individual meeting with our own team and some fantastic, invited guests should be a memorable start.
“We’ve purposely moved the delayed 90th Anniversary meeting to early autumn, as we want the best possible event, best possible riders and Eastbourne legends of the past from all over the world if possible, and the biggest possible crowd.
“The hope is that by September Covid-related restrictions will be far less than now.”
Eastbourne believe the Championship team can challenge for all the available honours at team, fours, pairs an individual level.
“We think we have the perfect blend of youth and experience and we always had and wanted an all -British team.
“We’ve tried to give them plenty of early home league matches to build up a head of steam.”
Where possible, Eastbourne will not be undertaking any long-haul trips to northern clubs on a Friday night with a match the next evening at Arlington after a tiring, overnight drive home.
As a result, some Sundays are utilised with the scope to move the start time back if there is a hot summer to aid the comfort of riders, officials, and supporters.
Jordan added: “We also hope to have some very exciting news regarding some additional domestic and international fixtures, if and when the Covid-19 situation allows us to do so.
“We look forward to that including the ongoing development of the next wave of young British riders.”
The club hopes to begin carefully monitored socially-distanced practice and training sessions once lockdown and any Tier restrictions allow.
Jordan summed up: “It’s been a long time since we saw competitive Speedway at Arlington (September 28, 2019).
“The Stadium Owners (the Dugard Family) have been amazingly supportive of all that we are trying to do and we cannot wait to reward the patience of them, our riders, officials, sponsors, supporters and Speedway fans everywhere by getting the show back on the Road, whilst paying absolute and genuine respect to all of those affected and impacted by this horrible and exceptional period in our history.
“It will be a very emotional return for us all, I’m sure, and we cannot wait to meet everyone again.”
The full list of fixtures can be seen here
- The last time there was Speedway racing at Arlington was on September 28, 2019, when the Championship match against Birmingham was abandoned after ten heats with the Eagles declared winners by 37-23.
Arlington Image Credit: Tiffani Gravelling Photography