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CHAMPIONS SWINDON WITHDRAW FOR 2021

Reigning SGB Premiership champions Swindon Robins have pulled out of Britain’s top flight for 2021.

11 / 01 / 2021, 09:38

Reigning SGB Premiership champions Swindon Robins have pulled out of Britain’s top flight for 2021.

The Blunsdon outfit cited concerns over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with fans currently not able to attend sporting events in the UK.

Meanwhile, venue owners Stadia UK Ltd plan to carry out redevelopment work at the Abbey Stadium, replacing spectator facilities. The club fears this could also disrupt their plans for the year.

Our hope is that 2021 will allow these unprecedented conditions to be fully resolved and that we will see the Robins back racing in 2022.

Terry Russell

The news comes as a hammer-blow to the Robins, who were due to track the likes of former world champion Jason Doyle for 2021. It also reduces the SGB Premiership to six clubs.

Robins chairman Terry Russell said: “The future for all spectator sports in 2021 is uncertain and in my opinion, UK Speedway is very unlikely to be able to function with a full complement of spectators through the 2021 season.

“The economics of the sport which relies so much on the paying spectator are not robust enough to take any downturn in revenue particularly after the cancelation of the 2020 season.

“Our government is not able to provide any indication of the timing or the steps of lifting the restrictions, which is not a criticism, just a fact. With this in front of us, it is impossible to plan and commit for racing at the Abbey in 2021.

“If we add to this the likely disruption to spectator facilities during the stadium rebuild, we have no alternative but to withdraw from the league this season and to come back in 2022 when we all hope the future will be looking much brighter.

“I ask for the understanding of supporters, sponsors, riders and all those involved with the club. Our hope is that 2021 will allow these unprecedented conditions to be fully resolved and that we will see the Robins back racing in 2022.”

Stadia UK also run Poole’s Wimborne Road home and previously operated Reading’s Smallmead Stadium, where the Racers’ were asked to take a year out after the 2008 season to allow building work to take place.

Speedway never returned to the Berkshire venue, but Clarke Osborne, chairman of Stadia UK, is hopeful work will be completed by the winter.

He said: “We have discussed with Terry over some time, looking for light at the end of this horrible tunnel. We respect his decision to withdraw from the league this year and understand his reasoning. I, like Terry, cannot see an end to the restrictions for many, many months.

“Our core promotion of greyhound racing has been severely affected by the restrictions, operating under strict bio security, without members of the public in attendance.

“I think this is likely to remain into the spring and even then, restrictions at some level will remain through the summer. For greyhound racing this is survivable, for speedway racing, clearly it is not.

“We hope to be starting work on the stadium redevelopment soon and to have our works completed by the winter.

“The works are programmed so as not to provide any disruption to greyhound racing and both race tracks have already been re-set. We do not anticipate any public attendance until the new customer facilities are in place.”

British Speedway chairman Rob Godfrey insists clubs are still intent on staging racing this season and pledged that the governing body will work to find new team places for the Robins riders.

He said: “We cannot dress it up; this is a blow to planning for the 2021 season. We sincerely hope everything goes well this year at the Abbey and that we can welcome the club back into the Premiership in a new stadium in 2022.

“Contrary to Swindon’s concerns over sport going ahead this year, however, as a sport we are pressing ahead and going racing this spring and summer. The vaccination programme is very encouraging and we are in no doubt we will be in for a good summer.

“Now there is a priority to try and fix the Swindon riders up elsewhere and the Premiership will be a competitive product once again I'm confident of that.”

Photo: Taylor Lanning

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