Eastbourne Eagles Club Statement

As confirmed, the Club has received notification of The Speedway Control Bureau (SCB) Inquiry into events during the Championship Shield semi-final with Glasgow Tigers on Saturday 3rd August.

We have to abide by the decisions of the Inquiry Panel and will do so to protect the integrity and authority of the SCB to oversee the sport which we fully support.

As previously announced, we believe however, that the ban issued to Edward is unfairly disproportionate in comparison with one of the other suspensions handed out, but Edward and Eastbourne Eagles have decided to accept the sanction and to move on.

We are aware that the evening in question has raised a huge amount of discussion and debate, fuelled by various clips of film evidence on social media.

We can confirm that we co-operated fully with all requests from the SCB to supply any visual or anecdotal evidence that they required, including statements from all Officials whose comments were requested.  The vast majority of this film evidence has remained private between both Clubs and The SCB and will remain so. 

We were disappointed, having made a conscious decision to not make any public comment about the specific incidents that the SCB were investigating, to read a full article by Craig Cook in The Speedway Star dated Thursday 8th August.

With reference to the article, which was removed from Craig Cooks own personal website within a few hours of publication on Monday 5th August, we would be clear that we do not hold him in any way responsible for the Publication of the Speedway Star interview, which would have been at the discretion of the Editor of the Magazine, we do however feel that this did lead to an unbalanced and one sided view of the events.

We would also like to specifically respond to some issues that were not captured on film or video that impacted proportionately on the atmosphere leading up to the commencement of the meeting.  

We believe the following to be factually correct and corroborated by our own and neutral supporters who were present and also based on positive e-mails we have received from some supporters from Glasgow in attendance, annoyed by allegations that they were in any way intimidated or confronted.

The Glasgow Team and Management expressed no concerns about the track prior to the arrival of the Referee Seth Parkin to any Official of Eastbourne Speedway. 

However immediately on his arrival, the Referee was subjected to prolonged and intense lobbying on the track over a period of more than 30 minutes. The Glasgow Riders refused to get changed and to warm up their Bikes within the normal timescale and subsequently the Eastbourne Eagles Management sought advice from Neil Vatcher from The SCB (who was in attendance at the Meeting) and who was asked to mediate to find a mutually agreeable solution to the issues raised by Glasgow.  

After a track walk with the Referee and Neil Vatcher, and a minor amount of remedial work (4 laps of chain grading) on the track, it was declared fit to race by the Meeting Referee.  

Glasgow were then given 15 minutes to warm up bikes and get changed into racing apparel at 7.20pm.

Up until this point Glasgow were refusing to prepare to race and any delay to the commencement of The Parade/Presentation was due to this refusal and not for work to be undertaken on the track, which took less than 5 minutes.

The majority of track grading was to repair the surface of holes and mounds created during the track walk by the Glasgow Team and to grade one soft patch on the exit of the Pits Turn, that is not on the racing line.

With the anticipation of a place in the Championship Shield final within our grasp, following an excellent performance at Glasgow in the First Leg, the cancellation of the Meeting at very short notice and for no good reason, would have been a public relations catastrophe for Eastbourne Fineprint Eagles.

A cancellation could potentially have ruined an excellent season, on and off the Track, in terms of our Business & Financial projections, relationship with Sponsors and Advertisers and most importantly, our loyal and rapidly growing Fan base and all supporters present.

We are 100% behind the safety of all riders at all times, but it should be noted that all Eastbourne Fineprint Eagles Team members were happy with the track surface, which was declared safe, and rode exceptionally well during the Meeting, as can be seen in the 23 minute independent documentary filmed for Eagles TV.

We also refute categorically any comments on the track made regarding injuries in the League Match at Arlington Stadium in May.

In relation to the presentation, which takes place on the back straight at Arlington, all riders and officials of both teams were made aware of the (standard) Meeting Parade and Presentation procedure, and specifically of the presence of young children, as Eaglets Mascots are now standard feature at all Eastbourne Home Matches. The procedures were exactly the same as when Glasgow previously visited in May in the Championship League Fixture.

The Glasgow Team were presented to the crowd first and just as the Home Team were about to be introduced, Craig Cook signalled to his mechanic to be pushed off and gesticulated to his team mates to follow him. He was followed by Claus Vissing and Kyle Bickley. All other members of the Glasgow Team remained stationary and complied in a professional and dignified manner at all times under the direction of The Clerk of The Course. 

The Referee (who was situated in The Referees Box on the opposite side of the track adjacent to the Starting Tapes) on the Home Straight, put on the Red Lights and warning buzzer before Craig Cook had entered the 3rd / 4th Bend and this immediately resulted in the Flag Marshalls on the 4th Bend and down the Home Straight standing at the side of the Track waving Red Flags clearly. Craig Cook chose to ignore all Red Flags and Lights, did not reduce his speed before riding in to and around the 1st / 2nd turn towards his teammates, the Eastbourne Team and Mascots and Track Officials at his point of departure.

At this point the fracas ensued and whilst Eastbourne Fineprint Eagles do not and cannot condone the behaviour of any individuals subsequently involved, we believe that the events of the previous 90 minutes and the specific disregard of the standard Presentation protocols were directly responsible for the unfortunate scenes that followed.

We would like to once again categorically refute any allegations that any Member of the Eastbourne Track Staff was ejected from the Meeting by the Referee, or Clerk of the Course.

The SCB have to date made no comment regarding the conduct of our track Staff and all have our complete confidence.

The scene was witnessed by 7 Mascots some of whom were very upset and we would particularly note and thank Richard Lawson for the way in which he sought to protect and reassure children and parents on the Presentation Parade as matters developed.

We can only apologise to any supporters present and to the wider Sport for our part in the events that followed, which we feel were escalated and exacerbated by the events of the previous 90 minutes.

The track subsequently produced some excellent racing not least from Craig Cook and other members of the Glasgow Team. We also note the very gracious and magnanimous comments of Mr Peter Facenna to the Eastbourne crowd after the meeting and subsequently in the Media. His comments on the evening drew a spontaneous round of applause from the vast majority of supporters present.

We cannot comment on the refusal of Craig Cook to take part in Heat 1 of the Meeting when he was disqualified from the race for exceeding the 2-minute time allowance. His subsequent excellent time in winning Heat 5 and in other races refutes the claim that the Track was in any way dangerous, as did his presence in the nominated heat 15.

We have received no written or verbal complaint direct to the club from any supporter present (save for the impact on young children affected by the melee), we believe that any initial provocation was that of the Glasgow Team on the Referee and that any subsequent PA comments from Stadium and Club Management were proportionate with the atmosphere that this behaviour had clearly created.  

There was clearly “booing” of those Riders and the Glasgow Team as a result of their actions from the crowd, but not beyond the realms of what we consider unusual considering the gravity of the Match and Tie and at no point was this encouraged, it was spontaneous.

We allocated a Security presence immediately after the opening of the meeting to ensure the safety of Craig and the Glasgow Team given the fractious atmosphere that had developed.

We had already implemented a plan to keep The Pits locked from public access for 10 minutes (instead of the usual 5 minutes) after racing, as the Eastbourne Team were due at Redcar at 2pm the following day and we wanted to facilitate a prompt getaway for our Team Members.

We have no reports of any incidents during or after the meeting regarding the General Public, as riders of both Teams fraternised as usual during the meeting and made their way to the rider car park at the rear of The Pits Area, immediately afterwards.

We will make no further comment on the events of the evening, other than to wish all the Glasgow riders, Management, and supporters the very best of luck in the remainder of the season and we trust that they will have a warm and friendly reception on any future visit to Arlington, when we will do our utmost to ensure their enjoyment and safety on a well prepared race track.