Speedway: Premier League speedway play-offs set to return as Sky hints at TV backing

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Play-offs look set to be re-introduced to decide the winners of next season’s Premier League speedway championship title, according to Edinburgh Monarchs co-promoter and British Speedway Promoters’ Association chairman, Alex Harkess.

Harkess also revealed today that Sky Sports, who sponsor and televise the Elite League, have already hinted they would screen live the Premier League play-off Final.

As Premier League bosses were today gathering for their annual AGM in Coventry, Harkess said that wholesale changes will be made to next year’s fixture list in the wake of the split-off debacle which proved a huge turn-off for both fans and officials this past season.

Harkess said: “The fixture list will be changed because this season was a disaster, and play-offs are certainly on the table for discussion. We did have play-offs in the Premier League a few years ago when Rye House won the title even although it was King’s Lynn who topped the league.

“I realise some people like to see the side at the top of the table at the end of the season be crowned champions, but play-offs, which would involve the top four finishing sides, could be set for a comeback, and I personally wouldn’t have any problem with that.

“Sky Sports have indicated they would be interested in televising the final, but they are not interested in screening the semi-finals, nonetheless it would give the Premier League a big boost if they could attract television interest.”

Crowds for both this year’s Elite and National League play-offs were at near record levels and Premier League chiefs are anxious to cash in, though much would depend on which two teams contested the final.

Harkess added: “That bit is not in the control of the Premier League, if it’s decided to re-introduce play-offs to the division, you cannot decide who will be in it, it’s pot luck basically.” It is also expected that the 42.05 points limit which governs Premier League team building is unlikely to change having been in existence for three years now. “There has already been a pre-AGM meeting among promoters,” said Harkess, “and I’d be surprised if the limit was altered.”

Monarchs will wait until after the AGM before formulating next season’s squad but finding two solid scoring reserve riders is a priority.

Added Harkess: “We have got to have two free scoring reserves, if you don’t you struggle, as we proved this season, and we know what balance in the team we need.”

Kyle Howarth, who is currently riding in Australia, would be an automatic choice to return to Armadale, but the grind of travelling up from Cheshire each week could scupper Monarchs’ plans to entice him back to fill one of the reserve slots.

“It’s a common problem we face because of our geographical location. Riders will travel happily if they are scoring ten or 11 points every Friday, but if they are only scoring one point, it’s a long journey home.

“Kyle certainly would like to be back and we would love to have him back, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”