Speedway: Monarchs’ track voted as the league’s best

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Edinburgh Monarchs have scooped the Track of the Year award at the British Speedway Promoters’ AGM in Coventry.

The prestigious accolade, which is decided by the Speedway Control Bureau in conjunction with the sport’s roster of referees, was accepted by BSPA chairman and Monarchs co-promoter Alex Harkess, who admitted: “It came as a complete surprise, I knew nothing about it, but it was a pleasant surprise.”

The recognition given to the Armadale circuit is something of a boost to Monarchs, who surrendered their Premier League crown to arch rivals Glasgow Tigers last season. Referees give all tracks marks after every home match and those marks, together with other considerations, are added up over the course of the season to find the overall winner. Harkess added: “Everyone at the club is delighted that we have been honoured.”

As to the conference itself, there were no seismic upheavals. Play-offs, as widely anticipated, involving the top six teams, will decide the Premier League title in 2012 replacing the controversial split-off league format which has been binned after just one season.

Harkess revealed that stability was uppermost in mind of most promoters. “That’s exactly what was needed after last season and there was harmony amongst everybody, nobody threw their dummy out of the pram if they didn’t get the vote they wanted. It all went very well and all 14 Premier League clubs will run again next year.”

Harkess said that replacing the ill-loved split-off programme was a no-brainer and it’s demise was also done for commercial reasons.

“Everyone agreed that the Premier League championship has to reach a proper finale and the title race is kept alive as long as possible. The first and second phase programme which was introduced last season was a financial disaster for a lot of clubs because they had nothing to play for over the last few months of the campaign. That couldn’t be allowed to happen again, and the play-off solution gained the acclaim of the room.

“A lot of people, including myself, still prefer the team who is top of the league at the end of the season to be champions. But we had to look at it from a commercial aspect as well, because teams who are not financially viable cannot run. The play-off system is already a huge success in both the Elite and National Leagues and it’s only fair that the Premier League give it a try.”

The 42.05 team-building points limit stays for another three years and the season will open up with a new competition with teams split into north and south sections, the respective group winners meeting in the final.

Monarchs’ opponents will be Glasgow, Berwick, Redcar, Newcastle, Scunthorpe, Workington and Sheffield.

The competition is akin to the old Premier Trophy, except no semi-finals will take place.

“We are looking for a potential sponsor which could influence the tournament’s name, if we don’t find backing then we may revert to calling it the Premier Trophy again,” added Harkess. “I think most teams favour opening up with some sort of competition ahead of the league programme.

“This competition will provide plenty of local derbies which are cash earners for many clubs, and with no semi-finals this should mean the final will be raced in plenty of time and won’t intertwine with the Knockout Cup which was a problem in the past.”

Monarchs have been drawn against Rye House Rockets in the Knockout Cup and will meet the winners of Ipswich v Glasgow in the quarter-finals.

Harkess added that Monarchs have now started in earnest to build their squad for next season, adding: “John (Campbell) and myself had talks during the AGM and we have a picture of what we want to do.”