Speedway: Boss slams league format and worries over attendances

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The revamped format to decide this season’s Premier League speedway champions has been less than a qualified success, and today Edinburgh Monarchs boss John Campbell, the longest serving promoter in the division, predicted the new-look programme will almost certainly be binned at next month’s annual promoters’ AGM.

The idea of splitting the 14 teams into two groups of seven to produce a second phase fixture list has turned out to be a disaster with some first phase fixtures yet to be completed.

This has led to a muddled picture, especially among those supporters new to the sport. Monarchs themselves will travel to newcomers Plymouth Devils on October 28 to complete their first phase campaign after the match was postponed in July. And the weather has also taken its toll on Monarchs’ second phase list, with away visits to Workington Comets and KO Cup winners Newport Wasps still to be agreed.

Campbell, who compiles the fixture list for the Premier League, said: “There will certainly be changes for next season. What exactly they will be I don’t know yet, but in my opinion the new format is wrong and will be changed.”

Monarchs have been hit by a well publicised dip in attendances at Armadale but supporters have rallied to Campbell’s call to turn out to support the side over the last month of the season. Turnout has been up for their last two matches against Somerset Rebels and Leicester Lions respectively, both meetings not short of entertainment.

Yet Campbell isn’t entirely convinced that the controversial overhaul of the league format can be blamed for recent poor crowds at the Lothian Arena, Monarchs’ home for the past 15 years. He said: “It certainly hasn’t helped that Glasgow Tigers have been runaway winners of the league because it’s meant there have been no second place teams who have still to come to Armadale who could challenge Glasgow, because they have been so far ahead of everybody else in the league, so for a lot of sides there has been nothing to go for.”

Yet Campbell’s fears for the future of Monarchs have not exactly been allayed. Writing in Friday’s match magazine for the Leicester encounter, he said: “Up until August our crowds were running at acceptable levels, higher than 2010, and not producing any real financial concerns for us.

“However our attendance on September 2 was our lowest of the season and produced a loss of approximately £4000. On September 9 the crowd was even lower and produced another loss of more than £4000, although the crowd for the Somerset meeting two weeks ago lifted a little. There are many reasons why supporters don’t turn out to see us, and of course our results against Glasgow Tigers in August were not good.

“The weather hasn’t helped and maybe the second phase fixture list is not attractive.

“Finally, maybe there is no longer sufficient interest in speedway at Armadale and that is the factor that is causing most concern.”

Campbell also revealed that supporters have come up with various suggestions to aid the club, including a possible share issue.

“More than one supporter came up with this idea and it’s certainly something we will give consideration to in the future, but there is no point in doing such a thing if we are losing heavily at the turnstiles.

“Suggestions of more publicity in the area around the track is something we will certainly act upon, and any offers of help would be greatly appreciated.”

Monarchs complete their home league programme against Newport on Friday. The Wasps are one of the most improved sides in the league and their emphatic cup shock over champions elect Glasgow is testament to that.

Monarchs will be looking to Andrew Tully for inspiration again after he stormed to an impressive 15-point maximum against Leicester.