Eastbourne Speedway Statement. July 2020

The Directors and Promoters of Eastbourne HG Aerospace Eagles Speedway have issued the following statement:

We have tried since the new Promotion took over in early 2019 to keep everyone updated with events and to be as transparent as possible and the past six months has been no exception during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As everyone will know, despite some outstanding efforts by the Management Committee of the BSPL (British Speedway Promoters Ltd), the Premier and Championship Leagues were sadly cancelled last Tuesday (July 21) for the 2020 season.

Lewi Kerr

The Government announcement that spectators may be allowed into Elite/Professional sports from October clearly came too late to save a meaningful season in our “professional leagues”, although some form of open meetings remain possible, and are still specifically on our (Eastbourne HG Aerospace Eagles) agenda for October, if possible.

The BSPL however, ascertained that the NDL – National Development league (which Eastbourne competed in so successfully from 2015 to 2018 under the management of Martin and Connor Dugard) – could be classed as “amateur”.

Amateur is a word we hate but which has relevance to regulatory permissions.

As a result, it may be possible for Clubs to run a short NDL season from mid August to late October 2020.

We would also be able to run our MSDL (Eastbourne Seagulls) team either during “Open Meetings” in October at professional level, or with a proposed NDL team from mid August to late October at NDL level.

James Jessop from the Seagulls

We therefore decided to explore the possibilities of running an Eastbourne NDL Team in the newly created NDL League (for 2020 purposes only) and to our knowledge six or seven other clubs have expressed an interest.

The complexities of what crowds are allowed and how they have to be administered and regulated are far too detailed to go in to here, but suffice to say we believe a viable business model with crowds up to several hundred is financially viable at NDL level, with strict pay rates enforced by the BSPL, which we would fully support.

The proposed League will have seven-man teams with a 38 point limit.

Using club assets, some ex-Eagles riders and current Eagles riders and some young and talented local riders, we set about building a competitive team.

We agreed slots with Tom Brennan, Jason Edwards, Jake Knight, Kelsey Dugard and Nathan Ablitt and also entered discussions with a few other candidates including Sam Hagon.

Nathan Ablitt

We feel we would have a very competitive team close to the points limit, and in the spirit of the proposed league.

At the same time we are still looking at options for a major professional level event in October, should restrictions ease sufficiently for us to stage a full meeting; with a crowd of up to 1,000.

We are encouraged by the success of “pilot schemes” in other sports, specifically County Cricket and Horse Racing, with attendances well in excess of those figures.

We are also actively working on fixtures, both at home and away for our MSDL Seagulls side to give them some exposure and track time.

At all times we remain very mindful and vigilant and aware that the Covid-19 pandemic has not gone away and that any meetings staged at Arlington would have to be subject to strict controls and regulations.

All Speedway Clubs wishing to stage fixtures with crowds have been asked, and are also required to request a “Permit” from the Environmental Health Department of the relevant local council.

We have approached Wealden District Council who have acted very quickly and courteously.

They have confirmed (like many other local authorities it transpires) that whilst they are not prepared to issue a specific “permit” to businesses or sports stadia, that they have “no objection”, provided strict guidelines and risk assessments (which we have from the ACU / SCB and our own Speedway specific risk analysis) are met.

Jason, Tom, Nathan & Vinnie

As a result we are still in a position to stage, if practical and possible and viable, Speedway at Arlington at Professional / NDL and MSDL levels.

We are aware that at the time of writing our closest neighbours at Kent, the Isle of Wight and Poole will not be staging Speedway in 2020.

We therefore feel that we are in a position to possibly stage and promote Speedway for a huge tranche of Speedway supporters across the whole of the South and South East of England, and wish to do all that we can to facilitate this.

However, there is a requirement for the new NDL League to commence in mid August and no later than the weekend of September 5th; and for all clubs to commit to fulfilling all fixtures at home and away.

There is a provision too for us to stage NDL-level “Challenge matches” in the same period as an alternative to joining the formal League if this is more practical.

We have, after a lot of consideration and discussions with the Stadium Owners and Riders; decided to go down the route of being available for possible Challenge Matches later in September and October, if the Covid-19 situation does not deteriorate and circumstances allow.

Jason Edwards

The logic behind this is driven by the fact that due to a significant refurbishment, investment and upgrade to the infrastructure of Arlington Stadium, works and the relevant safety certificates may not be fully in place until later in the early autumn.

We are also blessed to have some outstanding young riders who (in the case of Tom and Jason) already have commitments and possible further opportunities at International Team and Individual level in August and September, and in the case of Drew (who may also be eligible for NDL activity) in early October too at some prestigious European fixtures.

Drew Kemp

It would not be practical at this stage therefore to commit to the NDL League when stadium and rider availability cannot be fully guaranteed.

The “Challenge match” route offers us far greater flexibility.

These are exciting times for some of our riders.

Tom is in the European U-21 semi finals in the Czech Republic at the weekend, and then is joined by Drew and Jason in the U-19 European semi finals and hopefully Final in mid August.

Tom Brennan

The Team U-21 European Final is in Denmark in early September and hopefully all three will be in consideration for that.

Edward also rides in the Individual European Grass Track Final this coming weekend in France and we will keep you updated with the progress of Edward and Tom over the weekend.

We are immensely proud of all of our riders and it’s great to see them all doing so well and representing first and foremost themselves but also our Club with such distinction.

All 2020 season and 10-match Tickets WILL BE VALID for any meeting in 2020, giving effectively FREE ACCESS, but will start and cover the FULL 2021 season in the case of Full Season Tickets and start the 10-match sequence for those Tickets at the first match that you attend in 2021.

We have already issued full refund option details and the initial deadline for refunds, but if anyone is in difficulty and wants to discuss a Refund, please contact us at admin@eastbourne-speedway.com at any time.

To summarise, we WILL seek to stage Speedway at Arlington this autumn if it is safe, viable and practical to do so.

We have a number of options and we will continue to do all we can to keep all Supporters and the wider Speedway fraternity fully updated and as transparently as possible in due course.

In the meantime please stay safe, stay healthy and we hope to see you all soon.

Main image Credits: Mike Hinves