Monarchs rue rule change as Rob Branford departs

Rob Branford is wanted by other Premier League clubs. Pic: Ron MacNeill

Rob Branford is wanted by other Premier League clubs. Pic: Ron MacNeill

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Edinburgh Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess today expressed his regret that the Capital speedway club have been forced to axe tail-ender Rob Branford from next year’s squad because of a new rule that Monarchs officials were unable to vote on.

All Premier League sides must now track a three-point rider, who is eligible for the National League, to fill one of their reserve berths in 2016, a move designed to nurture young British talent.

But Harkess, who was made British Speedway Promoters’ Association President last week after six years in the chairman’s hot seat, said the new rule makes no sense and could throw certain riders onto the scrapheap.

Harkess said: “We would have been very happy to have gone with Rob again next season, but the rules don’t permit that now and this is a great pity. And what is going to happen next year if a rider ends up with a 3.10 average. Does that mean clubs won’t be able to use that rider the following season? It doesn’t make sense.

“Neither ourselves or Glasgow were represented at the promoters’ AGM when this was pushed through because we had the play-off Grand Final to run later that night. But it is not something that we agree with.”

Branford, who upped his three point starting mark this season, is owned by Redcar and Harkess revealed the Aussie, who races on a British licence, won’t be lost to the Premier League. “I know of two clubs who are interested in signing him so he should find a place with one of them hopefully,” he said.

Branford revealed he’d have loved a return to Armadale. “I loved riding for Edinburgh and would have returned like a shot,” he said. “But it’s not to be, which is a bit rough, and I’ll probably be riding against them if things work out.”

Harkess also revealed that Monarchs have began talks to replace No.1 Craig Cook, who quit the side after five years to pursue his career in Europe.

Harkess added: “We are down the road in trying to sign somebody, but nothing has been tied up yet. And of course, it could all go belly up.”

Max Clegg and Kevin Wolbert are the first names on the team roster for next season and some were surprised that Aussie ace Sam Masters wasn’t confirmed as well.

But Harkess said: “There is nothing to worry about, at least I hope not. We have not done a deal with Sam yet and the same applies to Erik Riss and Justin Sedgmen. Hopefully there will be announcements over the next couple of weeks.”

Masters is set to double-up again in the Elite League, but it won’t affect his Monarchs’ commitments.

Meanwhile, Border Roofing are to continue as team sponsors for a second spell next season, but boss Eddie McKenna said Monarchs will require hard work to meet the challenges ahead as they bid to win three league titles in a row.