EDINBURGH MONARCHS speedway chairman Alex Harkess today said he welcomed the creation of the newly-formed Monarchs Fans Trust and hoped its aim of helping the club avoid the financial losses they have incurred in recent years will ultimately secure its long-term future.
Harkess and his fellow directors have already warned if Monarchs plunge into the red again in 2015 then the door could possibly close on their 19-year reign at Armadale Stadium despite winning four British Premier League championships during that time.
The Fans Trust was officially launched earlier this week and Harkess said: “The idea did not come from the club but from the supporters themselves and anything that might help secure the future of the team has got to be welcomed.
“We very much appreciate what this group of supporters are doing. I think it has been modelled on what has happened at Hearts and the success they have had with their Foundation group. And we will give the Trust every help we possibly can.”
Monarchs lost money last season despite scooping a clutch of silverware, including a fourth league crown, and the recent loss of long-time team sponsors Scotwaste was a big blow although the search for new backers continues.
Asked if the Fans Trust had been formed in response to the huge money which has been poured into rivals Glasgow Tigers recently, Harkess replied: “I don’t think so. After all, who’s to say someone won’t come along with plenty of money and buy Monarchs?
“I think it was borne out of frustration that Monarchs go along every year and just seem to struggle from a financial perspective. We do have a loyal band of supporters but we don’t have enough people paying at the gate each week to make the club totally viable.
“We have some very good matches and some not so good but it just shows how precarious we were in 2014 – which was our most successful season in our history – that the team we built cost us a lot of money.
“And this Fans Trust group just want to see Monarchs on a more secure footing on a yearly basis. Obviously, the more supporters who enlist with the trust the better and any assistance we ultimately receive will be greatly appreciated and it would be lovely if the Trust generated enough money to secure Monarchs’ secure forever.”
Harkess insisted the threat to axe Monarchs if they make a loss in 2015 is not sabre-rattling. He said: “The original direcors of the club simply cannot go on keeping the club alive every season, and you wonder do enough people actually want speedway enough?
“The threat to close down is very real, though. I doubt if anybody actually wants that to happen and a whole lot of soul-searching would probably happen first before any decision was made. And it has to be pointed out that Monarchs do not make a loss every season, we have done very well during some years. However, over the last couple of years the costs of speedway have gone up and putting together a competitive team has also risen sharply. If the Fans Trust turns out to be a successful venture then the club will not be thinking of anything other than the way forward come the end of 2015.”
Trust spokesman Dave Harley, one of the prime movers behind the venture, told the Evening News: “We want to see a successful Monarchs team running next year, the year after, and the next fifty years.”
Harley, a keen football fan, admitted recent moves by supporters of Hearts influenced their thinking. He said: “Fans’ trusts have been appearing up and down the UK as people realise they support a club who have problems.
“Problems can’t be solved by individuals but bring a group of people together with the same passion and a massive step can be taken. There is no one size fits all and when it comes to Trusts and, as this is the first time a speedway club has attempted it, we will have different challenges and objectives, but especialy in the case of Hearts we can see what a difference it can make.”
He added: “Over the years, Monarchs fans have been great in rallying to the cause. In 2012 for example, a large number contributed £500 each to help Monarchs run the following season.”
Scott Somerville, a Trust committee member said: “We have to be realistic with our aims with our prime focus being to contribute to stabilising the club’s finances. But if we are successful we have indicated to Monarchs that we can perhaps also contribute to furthering the sport in Edinburgh and the Lothians.”