MICHELSEN: LITTLE CHOICE OVER POLISH DEAL
Danish ace Mikkel Michelsen admits he had little choice but to accept the PGE Ekstraliga’s pay cuts as he bids to recoup his winter outlay.
18 / 05 / 2020, 12:56
Danish racer Mikkel Michelsen admits he had little choice but to accept the PGE Ekstraliga’s pay cuts as he bids to recoup his winter investment.
The European champion lines up for Lublin in the world’s top speedway league, which gets underway on June 12, with training expected to start at the end of the month once foreign stars who recently arrived in Poland have completed their two-week quarantine.
The PGE Ekstraliga will stage racing behind closed doors with restrictions still in place on large gatherings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This means clubs have had to slash rider pay as they face the loss of all ticket revenue and potentially some sponsorship income.
I don’t really have a choice. I have already spent £55,000 in the winter. It’s gone and I need to get some money back in.
Riders have seen their Polish payments cut dramatically from a maximum of 250,000 PLN (£48,000) in sign-on fees and 5,000 PLN (£965) per point scored to a sign-on of 200,000 PLN (£38,600) with 2,500 PLN (£482) per point.
While Poland’s top flight remains the sport’s highest-paying league, Michelsen admits these reductions will still take a financial toll on riders.
But with leagues in Sweden, Denmark or Britain showing few signs of being ready to resume, the Rybnik resident was keen to take the chance to earn his living in the country he now calls home. He said: “People don’t always understand how much money we invest over the winter.
"I have been reading a lot of comments from different people all over the world – speedway fans. They see us taking a pay cut in Poland and think what we have left is still a lot.
“But if you invest £100,000 over the winter into your equipment as I have done – new bikes, a new van, stuff like that, it’s not so good.
“The borders have been closed in Poland, so I couldn’t get out anyway. If I was to live in another country like the foreign riders racing in Poland, then maybe the situation would have been a little bit different.
“If I had lived in another country, maybe I would have fought a bit more about things. But it is what it is and I need to do some sort of racing. I don’t really have a choice. I have already spent £100,000 in the winter. It’s gone and I need to get some money back in.”
Michelsen also feels some loyalty towards Lublin – a club he has quickly developed a strong affinity with after playing a key role in keeping them in the top flight in 2019 following their breakneck ascent from the Second Division.
Like every Polish club, Lublin faces the prospect of refunding all season tickets purchased, although they are offering fans the chance to defer their ticket to 2021 or accept exclusive merchandise and a discount on 2021 tickets instead.
Michelsen hopes his club will continue to thrive and is gutted to see them placed in a tough position by the pandemic.
“It’s such a shame what has happened because it’s such a professional club,” he said. “They are so organised and I reckon they have the best fans in the entire speedway world.
“But as a result of this situation, they have big sponsorship deals which are no longer lucrative for them. A lot of the clubs have beverage sponsors – alcohol and whatever – but they can’t serve drinks at the stadium because there are no people to serve it to. It’s so hard.
“As riders, we are losing a lot of money. But clubs are losing as well. Lublin had already sold all of their tickets for all of their meetings at home. They were sold within hours.
“They may need to give all that money back to the fans and there are a lot of complications at the moment. It’s going to take a year or two for everything to get back to how it was.”