Edinburgh Monarchs boss fears for future of Cup

Edinburgh Monarchs boss Alex Harkess. Pic: RON MacNEILL
Edinburgh Monarchs boss Alex Harkess. Pic: RON MacNEILL
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EDINBURGH MONARCHS boss Alex Harkess says he fears for the future of the Scottish Cup unless urgent steps are taken to restore the competition to the pre-eminence it once enjoyed in the speedway calendar.

Speaking ahead of his team’s second-leg clash against holders Glasgow Tigers at Armadale tonight, where Monarchs are seeking to overturn a deficit of 23 points, Harkess said: “The Scottish Cup should still be an attractive fixture, providing both teams are evenly matched.

“Unfortunately, the Glasgow team in itself has not been that attractive, but has been made attractive by the use of guests, and that is unfortunate, and we do have to look at it, but over the years it has been a very good fixture.

“But it has always been the case that the matches have been put on at a time when your full team has not been available. If our play-off match against Ipswich had been rained off last week it would have gone ahead tonight, so the Scottish Cup was secondary to that, and that is the problem we sometimes face trying to fit it in around other commitments.

Both teams must accept their share of the blame for treating the event with disdain at times. And while it is agreed that it will never recapture the intensity of the rivalry that existed during the 1960s, it should still be a big crowd puller if time was taken to market it properly.

It certainly has not helped that Edinburgh have been far too accommodating in allowing Glasgow to track, in essence, what have been “select” sides recently and this has devalued the whole thing beyond measure.

It drives Monarchs fans up the wall and they stayed away in droves from the first leg at Ashfield when Glasgow were permitted, with Edinburgh’s blessing, to use guest replacements whose averages far exceeded those of the riders’ they stood in for.

Unless rules are adhered to and a sense of seriousness is shown towards the matches again, these inter-city encounters, which have produced some glorious racing over the years, are in danger of being wiped out altogether.

Harkess thinks part of the problem lies in the fact that Monarchs have been the dominant force over the last decade and Glasgow have seemingly made little effort to send out the same team they started the season with.

But he added: “We go in to the match intending to avenge our 58-35 reverse at Ashfield. We want to win and make up the difference in points.”

Asked if there was an argument for running the Scottish Cup earlier in the season, Harkess added: “It’s difficult to say. We already meet Glasgow in the Spring Trophy, the Premier Trophy and of course the league. We managed to avoid them in the Knockout Cup this year, otherwise that would have been four fixtures at home against them, not counting the Scottish Cup.

“It can get too much, although it was difficult to argue against when Glasgow matches always produced our highest gates at Armadale, but that is not the case nowadays.”

Harkess stressed the need for Glasgow to send through a competitive squad. “We don’t want to end up with a 65-25 scoreline – that would be no good. It would give us the cup if it happened, but it would also mean a huge wage bill for us, which wouldn’t be ideal if we didn’t get a big crowd.”

Monarchs have been forced to bring in Ipswich rider Morten Risager to cover for Craig Cook, who is riding for Belle Vue Aces in the Elite League this weekend.