Speedway: Lack of stars sees Monarchs lose their Scots Open backer

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Edinburgh Monarchs speedway bosses are seeking a new sponsor for their glamour Scottish Open Championship meeting, which lifts the curtain on the Armadale season on March 23, following the surprise withdrawal of long-time backers, Keyline( Broxburn).

The Scottish Open, which is traditionally staged in July or August, has been moved to accommodate skipper Matthew Wethers’ Testimonial meeting which has been pencilled in for August 17.

But the move has not pleased Keyline boss Fraser McDowall, who also feels the individual showpiece has lost much of its allure in recent years. Keyline have pumped more than £10,000 into the meeting over the last six years as part of their annual sponsorship package with Monarchs, but McDowall said: “I have felt over the last couple of years the Scottish Open has been diluted due to the quality of the field, I remember Scottish Open meetings of the past always having good riders competing for the title. You could always pick out eight or ten riders who had a chance of winning the event. Recently it’s been a case of the whole Monarchs team taking part plus a few other riders from other tracks.

“Monarchs, to be fair, have told me it’s become increasingly harder to attract a good quality line-up. I feel staging what is a prestigious meeting in the first week of the new season is wrong.

“It could be freezing for a start and bringing my clients along for a meeting which may not boast a strong field, simply does not appeal to me. That’s the main reason why Keyline have pulled out, it is not for any financial reason.

“Having my guests along and having something nice to eat wearing big coats and gloves is not what the Scottish Open is about. If the Open had been held during the summer we would have stuck with it, but we will review our participation for future championships.

“We have poured a lot of money into the meeting, but increasingly with most of the Monarchs team in the line-up plus a few others, it was becoming nothing special.

“I would like to see just two of the Monarchs receiving invites plus heat leaders from other tracks completing the field. I was always brought up on that, I’ve not been involved with speedway for that long, but I always looked forward to the Scottish Open because it was always a good quality meeting.

“I love my speedway and so do my clients, and some of my branch managers have already put money in to enable us to carry on our sponsorship this season. While we have pulled out of the Scottish Open, we will probably sponsor five or six league matches at Armadale this year.”

Monarchs chairman Alex Harkess, left, said the loss of Keyline is not a financial blow for the Scottish Open, pointing out: “It is not as dire as some might think because Keyline have not actually withdrawn any money. They have given us the same amount of sponsorship money as we received last season, the only difference is Keyline have decided to spread their money into different meetings over the season.

“The Scottish Open is simply too early for them and they don’t want to be entertaining clients on a March night. It is not going to result in any financial loss for us, and if we can pick up an alternative sponsor, it would be a bonus, although finding new sponsors is never easy.

“We could not have Matthew’s testimonial and the Scottish Open running within weeks of each other, because both meetings are chasing the same type of sponsorship.

“Holding the Open in March may give us a greater chance of attracting a better variety of riders because a lot of them are looking for extra meetings at the start of a season.”

It’s understood that Belle Vue’s Rory Schlein, a former Monarch, will be back to defend his crown and possibly lift the title for a fourth time, and Ryan Fisher, a former Monarchs No. 1 who still has a huge following at Armadale, could race.