LEMON HAILS ACES ATTITUDE
Belle Vue boss Mark Lemon admits it was an “absolute honour” to work with Aces’ class of 2016 as they defied the club’s cash troubles.
19 Mar 2017, 10:00
Belle Vue director of speedway Mark Lemon admits it was an “absolute honour” to work with Aces’ class of 2016 as they overcame the club’s cash troubles to fight their way into the Elite League Grand Final.
Lemon admits motivating last year’s team was no easy task as the former Belle Vue promotion fronted by David Gordon and Chris Morton collapsed, leaving riders waiting for their wages, before the club was itself evicted from the National Speedway Stadium for non-payment of rent.
The Aces are back in their stunning new home this year after a consortium led by businessmen Tony Rice, Robin Southwell and CEO Adrian Smith agreed terms with landlords Manchester City Council.
It was just an absolute honour to work with those riders and the respect I have for what they achieved, without everyone knowing what was going on, is tremendous.
Lemon is back to front the speedway side of the business and he’ll be hoping for a much smoother 2017. But he was keen to salute Belle Vue’s 2016 stars for coming so close to championship gold, despite Aces’ off-track issues.
He said: “It was frustrating and it was hard to keep the morale going as well as we did. I take my hat off to the riders. They pretty much weren’t getting paid for a number of months – not all of them, but the majority of them.
“We came into the play-offs and to keep the spirits upbeat at that level was an incredible task. But all the boys knuckled down and they did it. They all knew what was going on. Obviously the writing was on the wall, but we got to the play-offs and we had four more matches to go.
“I’m not saying I begged the riders to turn up, but it was a tough time for us all. To achieve what we did under those pressures, I have great respect for those seven riders who kept turning up to the track each week. I was really impressed with their attitudes.
“It was difficult for me to keep motivated, to be quite honest, never mind motivate seven riders. But we had a lot of things going for us. We had a fantastic stadium. We were successful on the track and that generates its own hype and enthusiasm.
“But at the end of the day, they’re pro-riders and they have expensive equipment to run. I wouldn’t like to be in that position ever again, and it’s history now. Unfortunately we didn’t win the trophy, which we dearly wanted to. Who knows what bearing all of that had on it?
“It was just an absolute honour to work with those riders, though, and the respect I have for what they achieved, without everyone knowing what was going on, is tremendous.”
Lemon is delighted to be part of the new Aces management team and insists Rice, Southwell and Smith bring vast business knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to the club.
“They’re great guys,” he said. “They’re quite unassuming and their business acumen just speaks volumes. They’re from another level basically.
“It’s quite surprising that they want to get involved in speedway, but they see it as a great opportunity and a great investment. It’s really good news that they see speedway as a potential winner.
“They’re great gentlemen – quite fun to be around – and I’m very grateful I’ve got the opportunity to work with them. I’m sure I can learn a lot and hopefully feed off their enthusiasm.
“They’re just excited about life, business and have a passion for Manchester. They have chosen Belle Vue as their club, so that’s even better.”