FANS FORUM: Wave of optimism washes over promoter

Panthers owner Ged Rathbone (right) with one of his 2016 riders Kenneth Bjerre.

Panthers owner Ged Rathbone (right) with one of his 2016 riders Kenneth Bjerre.

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Panthers promoter Ged Rathbone admits he senses a wave of optimism following a fans’ forum on Tuesday (October 11).

An estimated 200 supporters were present at the Post Office Club to grill Rathbone, co-promoter Trevor Swales and team manager Carl Johnson on the failings of 2016 and the prospects for 2017.

Those present at the Bourges Boulevard venue learned that Panthers will race Premier League home meetings almost exclusively on Sundays at the East of England Showground next year, with a 5pm start-time.

And they were also told that the club’s managerial trio already have a ‘rough idea’ of the team they wish to assemble when bidding to make up for the disappointment of missing out on the play-offs this year.

Rathbone said: “It is only a few weeks since our 2016 season ended in such disappointment and we reflected on what went wrong.

“We did all we could to create a successful team, but it just didn’t work out as we missed out on the play-offs.

“We all agreed that we stand by the changes we made to the team and when we made them, and we had no problem in explaining the thinking behind them.

“We pride ourselves on being open and honest even if, as it turned out on occasions during 2016, we got a few things wrong.

“But I already sense a lot of optimism among the supporters for next season. To have such a good turnout for a fans’ forum proves that they are standing by us and hopefully we can repay that loyalty by delivering success on the track.

“I’ve learned in the last two seasons that is far from guaranteed, but we’ll be giving it our best shot and we are already formulating our team plans as we have a rough idea of how the land lies going forward.

“We were able to confirm to fans that we will race home meetings on Sundays whenever possible. We’ve made that decision based on crowd figures in the past couple of season.

“The traditional Friday-night slot just doesn’t seem to have worked for us.”

Rathbone had attended a British Speedway Promoters’ Association (BSPA) meeting earlier in the day, but could not divulge the proposals which had been discussed by the sport’s bosses.