Monarchs: Bigger home crowds needed for survival

Alex Harkess celebrates Monarchs' treble success. Pic: Ron MacNeil
Alex Harkess celebrates Monarchs' treble success. Pic: Ron MacNeil
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Edinburgh Monarchs chairman Alex Harkess today warned that unless fans get behind the speedway team in greater numbers next season their long-term future could be under threat once more.

Despite having stormed to a history-making trophy treble in 2014, Monarchs’ success was not reflected at the turnstiles – prompting directors of the club to provide a cash injection to keep them afloat during the summer. And Harkess insisted: “This cannot go on forever.”

Harkess says Monarchs need more attendances of around the 1200-mark who turned out to watch the Capital side clinch their fourth British Premier League crown in thrilling style at Armadale last month to avoid falling into the red again.

He stressed, however, it’s not all doom and gloom and confirmed the club will definitely be at the tapes in 2015 to defend their championship title.

Harkess told the Evening News: “We are definitely running and will do our utmost to put out the best possible side we can, which we have always strived to do every year, in a bid to win the league. But we are just making supporters aware that we cannot go on losing money forever.”

Monarchs’ record breaking campaign certainly came at a financial cost, as Harkess explained: “Surely nobody should be surprised that while the team were very successful, we lost money.

“The riders were successful and scored a huge amount of points. They get paid by the points and the wage bill was exceptionally high – far higher than we had anticipated because we never envisaged they would score the number of points they actually did. But that is just a fact of life.”

Harkess continued: “The crowd numbers were fantastic on the last Saturday of the campaign, and if we could get that just four times a season, then there would not be a problem.

“Unfortunately, during the middle part of the season, despite the team doing well, we suffered a fairly big slump in our crowds and that takes its toll. We were also forced to stage a couple of double-headers to ease our fixture congestion and that cost us money. Hopefully, next season we won’t find ourselves in that position again.”

Although Monarchs will have to exercise financial prudence, it won’t have a huge impact on the side they are currently piecing together for next season.

“Every team in the Premier League has to keep within the 42.05 team building limit, that figure governs us all,” said Harkess. “We will do the best we can, but some riders may price themselves out of the market – although that’s no different from any other year.”

Monarchs are currently in talks with No.1 Craig Cook about returning to Armadale. Harkess said: “We are trying to sort things out with Craig, but we haven’t discussed money yet. It’s all about where Craig wants to go and where he sees his future. His situation is similar to that of Max (Fricke) – it’s not about cash but where they see themselves within the sport.”

Justin Sedgmen and Sam Masters – the latter rebuffing strong overtures from Glasgow Tigers to switch to Ashfield – are almost certain to re-sign.

Asked if they are seeking more attractive terms, Harkess replied: “It’s human nature. Riders who did well last season and want to come back believe they are worth more than the year before. It gets a little bit annoying when sometimes you get a rider who has done badly and his average is lower but, because of that, he fits into more teams, so he thinks he’s worth more. That’s a different equation altogether.”

Monarchs are expected to announce some signings soon and are also hopeful that title sponsors Scotwaste will continue their backing for a ninth year. “We are hoping they will be back on board again,” added Harkess. “But nothing has been confirmed at this stage.”