Speedway is still regarded as something of a cinderella sport and its history is littered with clubs who have bitten the dust never to rise again. Dave Harley is determined his beloved Edinburgh Monarchs won’t join the graveyard of others.
Harley is spokesman for the newly-created Monarchs Fans Trust which has been formed with the aim of lifting the Capital outfit out of financial penury and to secure it’ future existence for generations to come.
The Trust is based on the Foundation of Hearts model with supporters invited to pledge various sums of money each month to help create a ‘war chest’ which would be used to assist Monarchs in times of need.
Monarchs operated at a loss in 2014, despite enjoying the most successful season in their history, culminating in them capturing a fourth British Premier League championship crown against Somerset Rebels last October.
Club directors have made it crystal clear that should they fall back into the red this year they would be unable to continue in 2016. Harley revealed the idea of a Fans Trust gained ground during the summer at a time when most supporters were perhaps focused on the magic Monarchs were producing on the track.
Harley said: “A few of us got together with the idea of forming a bigger working party, and this happened happened by December and we have been meeting regularly since. We all felt that something needed to be done to try and safeguard Monarchs’ future because every year it seemed there was always a concern that the team wouldn’t run the following season.
“The threat to close down Monarchs if they make a loss in 2015 is a real one. Just talking to a couple of the Monarchs board, that was the message we were being told.”
Despite Monarchs co promoter John Campbell expressing the view that there has been too much “negativity” surrounding the club when he addressed fans at their recent video show in the city, Harley denied that was a side swipe at the Trust, insisting: “No, John is well behind what we are doing as are the rest of the board. And, while we are independent of the board, we want to work with them to improve the club’s financial stability. But we cannot do it on our own unless we get a massive take-up by supporters.”
Following two public meetings at the weekend, Harley says the Trust are still short of their proposed 100 member target but is confident that figure can be reached once the season starts next month.
“We do not have any official targets”, he said. “But we would love to see a hundred people sign up. We are certainly working towards that figure. If people are able to pledge ten or twenty pounds each month then that could make a huge difference to the club.”
Monarchs supporters raised £30,000 to keep the club afloat at the end of 2012. And, in addition, also received personal donations from five individuals which amounted to over £60,000.
Harley is aware that some supporters may feel their goodwill is being stetched to breaking point so soon after that rescue. He said: “I think the hope back then was that the club’s future had been secured. But the reality is they’ve had a couple of seasons that have been very expensive since then and that is why all that money has been used up.
“And this is the reason why we have used a fans trust approach to make things more manageable for supporters to try and share the financial load. I accept some fans may think they have done enough already. But, speaking personally, if I want to watch my speedway on a Friday night it is going to cost me a little bit more. And, if we all want our speedway to continue every Friday, we need to do something about it. We must try and encourage supporters to sign up to raise the money we need to stabilise Monarchs’ finances.”
Asked to explain why supporters did not turn out in sufficent numbers last season which could have kept Monarchs in the black, Harley states: “We still got crowds of 1000 at the end of the season, though it wasn’t as many as we used to get.
“In truth, some have drifted away and a lot more needs to be done in terms of marketing etc to get them back. I thought last season was certainly better than the attendances in 2013. But people nowadays have other things to do and we are not in the same era when Monarchs first moved to Armadale in the nineties.”
Harley insists the Monarchs Fans Trust has a broader canvas than just raising funds, explaining: “We want to try and come up with some fresh ideas and some fresh perspectives on how to take Monarchs forward. Hopefully, if we can build up a financial surplus we can achieve some of our goals.
“We don’t want to see Monarchs die and hopefully if this season is better from a crowd point of view we can think about things such as a training track in the future which would help get Scottish riders back into the sport again. I’s disappointing we don’t have any in the team this year.”