Edinburgh MONARCHS are facing the hardest race of their speedway life as they battle to keep themselves afloat in the face of falling crowds and mounting debt.
This toxic combination proved too much for long-serving boss John Campbell, who quit as promoter after 29 years at the helm on Friday. His shock decision has sent Monarchs into a tailspin and throws up the question over who will step in to fill his hands-on role at the club. The obvious candidate appears to be chairman Alex Harkess, who also holds a promoter’s licence. Yet there are serious doubts over whether Monarchs can get themselves to the tapes for the 2013 season. Their declaration of intent must be made before next month’s annual promoters’ AGM.
A decision on the club’s future will be taken by directors at a board meeting tomorrow night. It is unclear if Campbell has also resigned as a director. This, however, could be crucial if Monarchs are to attract fresh funding. It is fair to say Campbell, whose commitment and tireless work for Monarchs over almost three decades is not in question, has alienated some supporters and sponsors.
A Monarchs insider said: “There are rumours of a couple of individuals who might be interested in coming forward to give Monarchs financial assistance, but it is unlikely they would do so if he decides to retain his place on the board.”
Monarchs believe their financial outlook would become a lot healthier if they are given the go-ahead to build a track at Ingliston. While this dream is not dead in the water, it does appear to be fading. Their fate lies with an 80-strong committee of farmers who are split 50/50 over giving Monarchs the green light and they have still to vote on the proposal.
Campbell threw the towel in because he sees no future for Monarchs at Armadale, their home for the last 16 years, and while it is accepted they cannot operate at the Lothian Arena indefinitely, for now, it remains their only real option. It depends, however, if the Monarchs directors feel they can absorb possible further losses and dwindling attendances. Given the crisis which has engulfed Monarchs, outwardly at least, there is no palpable sign of despondency. Indeed, according to director Mike Hunter, there is a strong feeling that Monarchs, formed in 1948, will not be allowed to die. He said: “We will discuss the way forward at our board meeting, but the feeling among the other directors is that we should carry on, but we need to look at all the facts and see exactly where we are.
“Obviously, with John having stepped down, we would need to take on the work he does and I’m sure we can cope with that. But we must also address the same concerns John has already expressed and decide if we can put up with it or not. The door is open for anybody who wants to help out, put it that way.”
On the Ingliston issue, Hunter added: “Talks are continuing but it is taking a long time. John knows more about this than the rest of us so hopefully he will fill us all in about the up-to-date position.”
Hunter is as worried as anyone over the collapse of Monarchs’ crowds, but said: “Armadale has never been an ideal venue among Edinburgh supporters. It’s hard to get people to come out and the weather certainly hasn’t helped this season. I never go out there looking forward to the meeting if it’s wet.”
Asked if Monarchs can overcome their troubles, Hunter replied: “We will certainly look at how we can help the club to survive. One problem we have is that none of the directors are getting any younger. I can’t say we will definitely be carrying on but nobody wants to see the Monarchs die.”
Len Jones, chairman of the Monarchs Supporters Club, remains optimistic. He said: “I’m not necessarily that concerned, though the financial side is a worry. I think we’ll survive, albeit supporters may have to do some serious supporting. The biggest millstone we have at Armadale is our rental. Maybe some discussion has to be done with Kenny Waugh to try and drop the amount we pay.”