The Seagulls set to fly

The Eagles Midland and Southern Development League team, The Eastbourne Seagulls are set to fly with the announcement of a new team sponsor, Essex based speedway team, The Thurrock Hammers Ltd.

Thurrock Hammers Ltd were formed in 2019 with the sole aim of campaigning for the return of speedway to Essex, with the loss of the Lakeside Hammers following to the sale of The Arena Essex Raceway for re-development.

While the off-track campaign to return speedway to the borough continues, the club have taken a revolutionary step to maintain an on-track presence in 2020/21.

During the winter, the Hammers had an exploratory discussion with the Eastbourne Eagles to see if a team representing Thurrock could be run out of Arlington Stadium to compete in the MSDL.

Unfortunately, a new ruling from the BSPA Ltd (British Speedway Promoters Association) deemed that only operational clubs would be sanctioned to run in either the National or Junior leagues. In addition it was also confirmed that nomadic speedway clubs would not be sanctioned to run in any league at an adopted track, unless there was sufficient evidence to show that a new ‘home’ track was very close to being finalised. The regulations have seen long standing MDL clubs such as Milton Keynes Knights and Reading Racers currently unable to track teams.

As a response to the new rules, the Eagles then opted to run their own MSDL team, the Eastbourne Seagulls, to compete alongside teams from Plymouth, Birmingham and the Isle of Wight.

Despite the initial set back, following in-depth and hugely productive conversations between the Eagles, and the Hammers three Directors, Mark Sexton, Russell Keetch and Ian Smalley,  Thurrock Hammers Ltd has taken the radical step of sponsoring the Seagulls in 2020/21.

As a result, the Eagles MSDL team will be known as:

The Eastbourne Seagulls Powered by Save Thurrock Hammers Speedway.

The new Seagulls’ team branding will include the famous Crossed Hammers, both on race bibs and on bike covers, with the three Hammers Directors taking over key management roles.

Hammers Director Ian Smalley, who will coordinate the Hammers media and team promotion in conjunction with his Head of Media role at The Eagles, commented:

“Through my ongoing freelance Media role with the Eagles, I’ve worked very closely with Eagles Managing Director Ian Jordan, who like Mark, Russ and myself, is hugely committed to helping both young and British riders gain invaluable, competitive track time. 

By sponsoring the Seagulls in a two-year deal, we can maintain a media platform to help continue to fight The Hammers campaign to return to Thurrock, whilst at the same time also helping to ensure that another team is available to provide opportunities for young riders.”

Mark Sexton, who will act specifically as the Seagulls Team Manager commented “We are delighted to already have a confirmed squad of 5 riders to cover issues with availability, injury and form, and we will be announcing these riders over the next week.

2020 really has become a year when creative, out of the box thinking is required to help clubs, riders and supporters survive the current health crisis and the Hammers are determined to play their part.”

The MSDL race format consists of four rider, six heat meetings and Seagulls fixtures will take place at Arlington on selected dates after the main Championship meetings have run. The fixture list is, understandably, yet to be finalised.

Eagles Managing Director Ian Jordan commented:

“Eastbourne HG Aerospace Eagles have always been synonymous with the development of young British Riders.

We made a conscious decision in 2019 to focus on the Championship League Team but always planned to enter an MSDL Team for 2020 and in future seasons. We will also have a couple of young local Mascots in 2020/2021 in Vinnie Joe Foord and Charlie Wood, who look excellent prospects for the future.

We had hoped to invite a dormant Club to facilitate this to allow Eagles Management to focus 100% on The Championship Team, but this was not possible following changes in the rules for MSDL dormant Clubs. The chosen Club was to be Thurrock Hammers.

We remain though very keen to support the “Save Thurrock Hammers” Campaign and having worked closely with Ian Smalley on both Eastbourne and Plymouth Speedway projects and other yet to be launched initiatives, and having been very impressed with the drive and passion that Russ (Keetch) and Mark (Sexton) have for Speedway in general and the campaign to return Speedway to Essex in particular, and given their outstanding expertise in their respective fields, which we hope can benefit all aspects of Speedway at Eastbourne too, it seemed a no brainer not to develop the project within the new Guidelines.

Our Community Team at Eastbourne had, via some excellent work by Ken Burnett during the past winter, started to forge closer links with Brighton & Hove Albion FC (nicknamed The Seagulls) and the concept of bringing that exciting new association with the campaign to support the “Save Thurrock Hammers” together, and to also develop and build a new planned Eastbourne HG Aerospace Eagles “Young Rider Academy”; into one new idea and a fantastically exciting project for 2020 and for the 2021 season was born.

The Eastbourne Seagulls powered by Save Thurrock Hammers 

We look forward therefore to forging a unique synergy to give maximum support to our friends from Thurrock Hammers with all of their goals; and to welcome Hammers fans of the past, present and future to support their team and our Team; with an exciting new potentially massive Supporter base via 60,000 free Under 15 Season Passes for youngsters across Sussex and into parts of Essex and Kent to hopefully gravitate to Speedway, whilst launching an Academy to develop the Eagles, Hammers and Seagulls of the future.

The Team that Mark, Russ and Ian are putting together looks very exciting on paper and we can’t wait to see the Squad announced next week, and to get started hopefully at some point in 2020, and if not, then for the full 2021 season.”

Sponsorship packages, with all money accrued purely to cover any racing costs, will be available for all budgets ranging from heat sponsorship, through to methanol and oil for a rider for a meeting or for the season, through to sponsorship of tyres, bike covers, along with associate sponsors of the team. 

Full details will be announced shortly, but if any fans or businesses wish to learn more, please get in contact with The Hammers Commercial Director Russell Keetch here.

Seagulls logo design by Groundswell Design

Background image credit: Tiffani Graveling Photography