Louis upset by shield's three-team change

A SWITCH in the format of the end-of-season Craven Shield tournament has upset Ipswich Witches speedway promoter John Louis.Instead of riding home and away meetings against the other teams in their qualifying group - Eastbourne and Wolverhampton - the Witches will take part in a three-team tournament.

By Elvin King

A SWITCH in the format of the end-of-season Craven Shield tournament has upset Ipswich Witches speedway promoter John Louis.

Instead of riding home and away meetings against the other teams in their qualifying group - Eastbourne and Wolverhampton - the Witches will take part in a three-team tournament. This will mean they will stage just one home meeting in the qualifiers and this could be on September 28.

Fans will be asked to pay another £1 on the admission charge, but six of the 18 races will not feature any Ipswich riders.

Louis said: “I would much prefer the format we had in 2005. Then we rode two home meetings in the qualifiers under the same format as league meetings.

“It would be fairer to us and fairer to our fans. It was a shock when we were told of the change but we will have to get on with it. It looks an even group and it could go any way.”

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Ipswich suffered their first home postponement of the season when persistent rain led to an inevitable call-off to last night's planned home Elite League meeting against Eastbourne.

Louis said: “We were told by the weather experts it would be a dry evening. So we decided to go for it. But with the track partly under water and no sign of any let-up we had no alternative than to call a halt.”

Ipswich have reserve dates, with their only other home league fixture left to stage being next Thursday's meeting with Coventry.

Eastbourne were provisionally coming to Foxhall Stadium for the Craven Shield clash next month and this is the most likely date for the re-staging of last night's league fixture.

It proved to be a frustrating two days for the Witches with the previous night's clash at Oxford also falling foul to the adverse weather.

The meeting at Oxford has been pencilled in for September 20, which is only one day before the deadline to complete league meetings.

Louis said: “It is not ideal, but if we have a rain-off on that date and we need a point or points to qualify for the play-offs then we might have to go back the following night.”

This would mean the likelihood of no home meeting being scheduled for September 21.

But even so, unless Ipswich qualify for the play-offs or reach the Craven Shield final, their season is set to be completed by the end of next month.

Ipswich ride at Swindon on Monday with a 5pm start as the meeting is being televised live.

They will track a full-strength side. It remains to be seen whether Daniel King rides at Poole on Wednesday as he has the World Under-21 final in Italy next Saturday.

If he doesn't ride at home to Coventry next Thursday Carl Wilkinson is set to take his place.

n Former Ipswich rider Scott Nicholls has withdrawn from tomorrow's Czech Republic Grand Prix due to a broken collarbone.

His place will be taken by Australian Ryan Sullivan, who is the series' second reserve with Hans Andersen already taking part as a replacement for the retired Tony Rickardsson. The wild card place is now taken by Adrian Rymel, instead of the injured Bo Brhel.

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