Wightlink Warriors’ plans for ‘summer speedway spectacular’ plunged into doubt

Wightlink Warriors' plans to stage a 'summer spectacular' of speedway racing have been plunged into doubt.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 11:33 am
There are fresh doubts over whether there will be any speedway on the Isle of Wight this summer. Picture: Ian Groves/Sportography

The Isle of Wight-based club were hoping to welcome riders for a host of events after breaking away from the British Speedway Promoters Limited authority.

However, BSPL riders are allegedly being threatened with a number of penalties, ranging from fines to potential bans, should they take part or even use the Smallbrook Stadium track.

Wightlink Warriors, who took the decision to drop out of the National League this season, have been informed NL riders are viewed in the same way contractually as those in the Premiership and Championship - even though they are of an amateur level.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Warriors co-chairman Barry Bishop admitted the club's future remains unclear as they are unaware if and when speedway meets could be permitted on the island.

He has also called for the Speedway Control Bureau (SCB) or BSPL to provide some clarity over the ruling for contracted and non-contracted riders coming to the Smallbrook Stadium.

Bishop said: 'After the news that the directors of the British Speedway Promoters would allow amateur status riders to come to the Isle of Wight to participate in our events, everyone associated with the club was delighted, and the feedback from the public was that it was a great move for the sport and rider development.

'With riders literally chomping at the bit to ride on the Island to improve their skills, get more track time and competitive racing under their belts, we now find that the BSPL appear to view the NL riders contractually in the same way as Premiership and Championship riders - even though NL riders are classed as amateur and not professional - with clubs stopping riders from coming to the Island.

'We were delighted that a way forward with the BSPL was found as the NL has always been presented as amateur with riders being paid effectively expenses. But this, we are told now, is not the case and NL riders have the same professional status as Premier and Championship riders.

'To be honest, the threats being made to some riders should they come to the Island are really very sad to see, ranging from receiving bans or fines for stepping into the stadium - to support us - to participating in a meeting that 'could lead to a ban or a fine'.

‘Even practising at Smallbrook could incur the same measures being imposed which is in complete contradiction to what the regulating body have told us.

'Only this week, another new reason for refusing permission to ride emerged when the charging of entrance fees and payment of riders became an issue.

'With full medical cover and ferry costs to meet, along with all the other costs of a stadium, why wouldn't we charge spectators to watch an evening of entertainment?

'The future now is unclear with riders being prevented from racing by rules that the BSPL clubs and riders do not appear to be aware of - there is no defined statement.

'The Warriors are being prevented from entertaining our fans which will include some of the expected large number of holidaymakers this year, and our sport overall goes a little further downhill.

There needs to be a public statement from the Speedway Control Bureau (SCB)/BSPL immediately telling riders what the rule is with regards to coming to the island as even non-contracted riders are hesitating about coming over.

'All BSPL riders are self-employed and permission from their promoters to do other events may not be unreasonably withheld. Coming to the island would, in our view, be no different than participating in a grass track, road race, motocross, banger racing, international events and other Nora (motorsport licencing body) events.

'It should not be the case of you can only do one or the other as riders are being told.'

Bishop has called for talks with the BPSL in a bid to resolve the matter and plan a way forward.

He added: 'We are happy to meet with the BSPL to discuss things - we have spoken to the SCB and Auto Cycle Union already.

'However, we are continuing to work on our options and are in constant dialogue with the teams that have committed to support us in Challenge matches and who, in our view, are vital to the future of the sport.'