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PANTHERS OUT OF ELITE LEAGUE

Peterborough Panthers have dropped out of the British Elite League and will be replaced by the Leicester Lions for 2014.

17 / 11 / 2013, 17:40

Peterborough Panthers have dropped out of the British Elite League and will be replaced by the Leicester Lions for 2014.

The Alwalton outfit have had a turbulent relationship with the BSPA in recent years and are rumoured to have opposed plans for the Lions to join the Elite last year.

But the Beaumont Park club was granted its wish to move up from the Premier League this year and join a 10-team league, also featuring champions Poole, Birmingham, Swindon, Wolverhampton, King’s Lynn, Lakeside, Eastbourne, Belle Vue and Coventry.

Peterborough could still race on next year as BSPA chairman Alex Harkess confirmed the governing body has “left the door ajar” for the Panthers to “participate in British speedway,” although it is unclear which league they would enter.

All is not lost as there is an opportunity for new owners to consider purchasing Peterborough, and we have left the door ajar for the club to participate in British speedway.

Alex Harkess

He said: “There has been an atmosphere of reality which has led to changes in team structure and league membership. I am saddened to acknowledge that Peterborough have resigned their position in the top league and that their owners have chosen to leave the sport.

“All is not lost as there is an opportunity for new owners to consider purchasing Peterborough, and we have left the door ajar for the club to participate in British speedway.

“Peterborough’s place will be taken by Leicester, which retains the top league at ten clubs, and the Premier League will be at twelve.”

The fixture list has been extended and the teams will meet each other home and away twice, guaranteeing them 36 regular Elite League meetings, with the top four sides competing in the play-offs.

Elite League clubs will build their top fives to a limit of 32 points, while the reserve berths will be occupied by two National League riders in a bid to fast-track British talent to the top and cut costs.

Harkess was delighted to see world champion Tai Woffinden at the BSPA meeting in Coventry this weekend and hopes more riders will now follow in his footsteps.

He said: “Of course, Tai has reached the very top from his start in the National League. It was an absolute privilege and pleasure to welcome Tai to our conference as guest of honour to receive congratulations and a standing ovation from our members who are extremely proud of his achievements.”

Harkess says the BSPA is hopeful of securing a new television deal for next season as their contract with Sky Sports ends on December 31.

He said: “Our ongoing discussions are proving very positive and I am confident we will bring this to a satisfactory conclusion.

"I am looking forward to sharing an announcement with our partners in due course.”

Edinburgh co-promoter Harkess will serve as BSPA chairman for a fifth straight season, with Lakeside chief Jon Cook retained as vice-chairman.

Wolves owner Chris van Straaten, Sheffield boss David Hoggart and Newcastle co-promoter George English keep their management committee places, while Keith ‘Buster’ Chapman of King’s Lynn and Scunthorpe’s Rob Godfrey serve as reserve members.

The Premier League will be cut to 12 teams following Leicester’s promotion, with Berwick, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ipswich, Newcastle, Plymouth, Redcar, Rye House, Scunthorpe, Sheffield, Somerset and Workington taking to the track.

Teams will be built to a 42.5 limit and clubs will race 14 home and 14 away meetings, although it is unclear how which clubs will meet each other twice will be determined.

The play-offs will be contested between the top six sides, while the Knockout Cup is retained and the Premier League Cup will see three groups of four teams meet.

Further details of the BSPA shared events will be released at a later date, while applications for the vacant Team Great Britain managerial role will be considered in January.

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