Panthers can’t afford to bring Barker back

Ben Barker won't be coming back to ride for Panthers.

Ben Barker won't be coming back to ride for Panthers.

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Panthers promoter Ged Rathbone has admitted the club don’t possess the financial muscle to keep one of their 2015 stars.

Ben Barker was only part of the city team for the final few weeks of the season, but he made a big impression after being drafted in to replace the sacked Robert Lambert.

Barker powered to two full maximums and one paid maximum during just 10 appearances in a campaign which ended with defeat in the semi-finals of the Premier League play-offs to eventual champions Edinburgh.

Rathbone and his fellow bosses were keen to bring Barker back to the club in 2016, but they can’t compete with an offer the 27 year-old has received from elsewhere.

Rathbone said: “Ben loved his time riding for Peterborough and there is no doubt we loved having him as part of the team.

“It was a brave move to bring him in as he was getting over such a bad injury, but he more than justified our decision. He was great to have around on and off the track and there are no hard feelings towards him after he chose not to come back.

“He was in our plans but was then offered a deal elsewhere that would have been impossible for him to turn down. He is a family man and he had to take it.

“It is not something which we could compete with, but he will always be welcome back at the Showground.”

Panthers bosses are working hard on assembling their team for 2016 with several members of the 2015 side expected to feature.

Rathbone revealed a number of deals have been done in principle, but he is not yet in a position to go public on them.

But he has challenged any British rider who wants a place at reserve next season to show their skills at the East of England Showground this Saturday. The club are staging an open practice session at Alwalton between 10am and 2pm and Rathbone will be running the rule over potential recruits.

A new rule introduced at the recent British Speedway Promoters’ Association (BSPA) annual meeting means all Premier League clubs must track a homegrown rider at number seven on a three-point average and who is also eligible for the National League.

He added: “We’re putting on a practice at the Showground on Saturday and while it is open to all riders of all abilities, I’ll be paying particular interest to young Brits who qualify for a reserve spot in the Premier League.

“We’ve got a few ideas and options already, but I’m challenging anyone who thinks they’re capable of riding for the club next season to get down here and show us what they can do on our track.”