Louis: Elite League has bright future
SPEEDWAY: British League speedway has got a rosy future.Ipswich Evening Star Witches supremo John Louis confirmed this today, despite the fact many cynics were fearing for the future of the sport before last weekend's annual promoters' conference in Swindon.
By Elvin King
BRITISH League speedway has got a rosy future.
Ipswich Evening Star Witches supremo John Louis confirmed this today, despite the fact many cynics were fearing for the future of the sport before last weekend's annual promoters' conference in Swindon.
There did not appear to be a feasible answer to the problem of an expanding Grand Prix system squeezing the life out of the Sky Sports Elite League.
But the promoters – for once – appear to have come up with a perfect solution.
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The start up of the British League Cup will not only give weekend clubs a chance to ride meaningful fixtures on GP weeks, but it also begins a tangible link between the Elite League and Premier League which could lead to further growth in the years ahead.
Clubs who lost money this year because they were forced to stage so many meetings on "off" nights will now just have to concern themselves with 14 home league matches following the decision of Oxford to drop to the Premier League.
They should be able to do this in weeks not affected by GP dates. If King's Lynn fail to agree a lease for 2003 with their stadium owners then the British Speedway Promoters' Association can use their authority and refuse to accept Oxford's "relegation".
This will leave eight, instead of nine in 2002, sides in the top flight. No definite decision has been made on the Knock-Out Cup and this might be run if there is sufficient interest.
"I am very happy," said Louis today. "Every decision made is good for British speedway and there is every reason to be optimistic.
"We now have a structure in place which can stand the test of time and means that league speedway in this country can run in tandem with the GP system.
"It also links our two main leagues with the League Cup, which will give Premier League clubs an idea of what top level speedway is all about.
"There were some items on the agenda that were the subject of considerable debate, but at the end of the weekend every promoter went away really happy."
Louis sees nothing that will deter the Witches from having a successful 2003 campaign. "The moves will freshen things up," added Louis.
"And we will have enough home meetings to fulfil our deal with our Foxhall Stadium landlord.
"Reducing the combined average limit to 36 points for League Cup meetings means that we will delve into the Conference League to make up a side.
"This will give our fans a chance to see different riders and also different teams with Arena-Essex and Rye House due to visit in the round-robin stage.
"We can start in earnest now working on our team and it makes sense to start looking at our own assets.
"Toni Svab, Chris Slabon and Kim Jansson come into this category."
BSPA chairman Chris Van Straaten summed up the general view of a good weekend's work.
The Wolverhampton promoter said: "We have always championed a three-tier structure and we're delighted for this to remain.
"The newly-introduced British League Cup fixtures will, more than likely, take place on Grand Prix weekends and it provides supporters with a greater variety of meetings.
"It is also a bridge-building exercise between the two leagues and it gives us all something else to look forward to.
"Everyone realises that pay restraints need to be put in place and it was agreed that this would apply at all levels of our sport.
"This was an AGM full of co-operation between the two senior leagues and everyone has emerged in a positive frame of mind."