Magda spells out Witches' woes

IPSWICH Speedway needs an immediate cash injection of £100,000 to compete in the Elite League next season."This is if it stays at the same financial levels as this year," said club director Magda Louis as she responded to dozens of letter and e-mails from fans with their opinions on which league the club should be part of in 2004.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Speedway needs an immediate cash injection of £100,000 to compete in the Elite League next season.

"This is if it stays at the same financial levels as this year," said club director Magda Louis as she responded to dozens of letter and e-mails from fans with their opinions on which league the club should be part of in 2004.

"We have not made a final decision yet for next season, but clubs cannot run Elite League speedway with 900 fans. It is simply not economically justified.

"Ipswich Speedway would need immediate cash of £100,000 to compete at the top level next season at the level it is set for this season."

Mrs Louis, who runs the club with her promoter husband John, revealed that the pair would sell the business if a suitable offer came along.

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She added: "We are not insisting we carry on as promoters. If someone with a good deal of money comes along and wants to track an all-star line-up we would not stand in their way.

"Every club in the Elite League is losing money and if promoters deny this they are living a lie.

"The Elite League is shrinking and no Premier club wants to join in. Why? Because of the money.

"On average, a good Grand Prix rider earns around £45,000 to £65,000 from the Elite League each season.

"To have two or three in a team eats away most of the club's budget. And don't forget there are other riders in the team who need paying, plus rent, BSPA fees, insurance, vans, air tickets, accommodation etc."

Mrs Louis says that running in the Elite League is so expensive that even richer clubs than Ipswich are not managing.

"We are not a rich club, and never have been," she continued. "We have a good record of having top internationals in our team because of smart money management and reasonable contracts we have managed to negotiate.

"This has changed. Riders each year want more and with the same attendances, same sponsorship and the same Sky TV deal, it has became a deadly game. Who will survive to the end of the season?

"If a new person comes in he or she will find riders trying to take advantage of a new sponsor or director in the club.

"Their financial expectations will rise sky high. These are facts and we are aware that there is a big gap between what fans want and what club can afford. Only a lump sum of money can close this gap, nothing else."

Mrs Louis says that her records show that regardless of the names in their line-up – and performances by the Witches – there are no major crowd changes throughout the season.

She continued: "Existing fans who want to see super stars – and this has been their privilege for last few years – are not enough to pay for the show.

"In 1998, when we won everything, we had a number of meetings with crowds below 1,000 despite having Rickardsson, Gollob, Louis and Nicholls in our team.

"Our diehard fans supported us well, with occasional fans coming a few times as they still do today.

"Against Oxford, we had 50 more people watching Hancock, Wiltshire, Nicholls, than the previous week Premier League King's Lynn were in opposition.

"The racing was good, we won the match and for the first time this season the show was paid for by supporters. No money was lost.

"We have had two British League Cup home matches and on both occasions attendances have been good, better that some Elite League racing, but costs were considerable down."

Mrs Louis then revealed the club's views on the Elite League versus Premier League battle.

She said: "Without Ipswich and Peterborough there will be no Elite League in 2004 as we know it.

"The chairman of British Speedway Promoters' Association, Wolverhampton's Chris van Straaten, has a dream of 12 clubs in the Elite League, four of them coming up from Premier this winter.

"Obviously he is not in touch with promoters of his own association as everybody knows the Premier League is doing well and their promoters don't want to step into deep waters and start losing money in out league. Who would?"

On August 6 there is a meeting to discuss the future of speedway in this country and individual clubs will be making decisions about their 2004 futures.

"Most Elite League promoters want to cut costs and that can only mean one thing – less GP riders or possibly no GP riders," added Mrs Louis.

"I cannot see riders agreeing a pay cut. This is not the only problem, all foreigners cost tremendous amount of money in various guarantees, air fares, vans and extras and we do not have their exclusive services as they fly out to race in two other leagues, championships, Grand Prix and challenges.

"How frustrating for us promoters, when we pay so much money and can't have our own riders for some matches as they have other commitments.

"Unfortunately, including all British in the team would be the solution but there aren't enough of them around."

Looking back on a depressing 2003 campaign, Mrs Louis said: "Both management and fans were happy with the line-up until we started to lose home matches. Most of riders have not performed to their averages.

"The rider who could have helped us, Greg Hancock, was approached in May and turned us down. It was a big financial risk we decided to take in order to make play-offs. To meet the demands of a rider of his calibre it needs on average 200 extra people every Thursday.

"This is impossible. By the middle of July, Greg decided to make a move and joined Oxford. He came with the Silver Machine but created no interest, as the crowd was very poor.

"Nicky Pedersen was never an option, as he immediately agreed terms with Eastbourne. Joe Screen joined Belle Vue, as he wanted to reduce his travelling. Screen, Gollob and Hancock have been approached but turned us down for various reasons."

Summing up the club's situation, Mrs Louis said: "Speedway is no different to any other business, it is limited company with responsibilities not only to faithful fans but also to the bank manager and shareholders.

"And taking into consideration that we have already faced bankruptcy once in 1996, we know that there is a thin line between success and a failure.

"Therefore we will run what we can afford in 2003 – unless somebody else takes over.

"John and I would like to see the Witches in the top division and able to keep riders like Scott, our pride and joy, but we need to be sure that we can afford it.

"Nobody expects Ipswich Town to go for the top players now for the very same reason. Why do our fans expect Ipswich Speedway to bid for the top guns?

"Only money matters in sport. And money is something British speedway does not have any more."

And finally she added; "I am surprised at the views of the letters sent to The Evening Star. Every Thursday I speak to people at Foxhall Stadium and the vast majority ask for Premier League speedway."

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