Peterborough Panthers saw their homecoming turn sour on a Wednesday night (August 30) of track troubles and a major revelation.
The city team did at least manage to halt a run of five successive SGB Championship defeats when entertaining Newcastle at the East of England Arena – although a 30-30 draw in a contest cut short due to unsafe track conditions is hardly the outcome they desired.
Referee Barbara Horley called an early halt to proceedings after 10 heats - the first point at which the result could stand - with members of both teams unhappy with the Alwalton surface.
It took more than an hour-and-a-half for those races to be completed on a shambolic night with frequent hold-ups for grading work.
And it was during one such break that club owner Ged Rathbone took to the tannoy to inform supporters that he is banned from promoting the club due to a suspension of his licence.
It is understood to stem from his decision to allow Jack Holder to miss the SGB Championship Fours on August 6 to race in Poland – an act which drew condemnation from British Speedway Promoters’ Association (BSPA) supremo Buster Chapman.
Rathbone told fans: “I feel I have to let you know my promoters’ licence has been suspended.
“It means I’m not allowed to have any involvement in the running of our meetings.
“I find it frustrating to have to stand and watch a business that I have worked tirelessly to build up over the last three years fall to pieces.
“I can only apologise for the events tonight. The most important people at Peterborough are the supporters and we need everyone behind us.”
Rathbone declined to expand on his public comments when approached after the earlier-than-expected conclusion to the club’s first home league meeting for five-and-a-half weeks, but a statement has appeared on the club’s website revealing Trevor Swales is now responsible for promotional duties.
Meanwhile a BSPA spokesman told the Peterborough Telegraph earlier this week that the Panthers situation is now being handled by the Speedway Control Bureau. That organisation’s co-ordinator, Neil Vatcher, has not yet responded to a request for information made earlier this week.
Middlesbrough-based businessman Rathbone has done an excellent job since stepping in late in 2014 to keep speedway alive in the city.
The club’s crowds have been consistently good with some exceptional racing served up on a regular basis, although neither of those things were evident last night.
Despite being powerless to step in, no-one was more disappointed by what unfolded than Rathbone. He reacted with a goodwill gesture to his paying fans by offering £5 off admission to any other home meeting this season to those who witnessed the ‘fiasco’ - as he described it.
Hopefully none will be put off returning because Rathbone is a man who currently needs support . . . and lots of it.
Panthers go to Workington on Saturday (September 2) before returning to Alwalton to host Glasgow on Sunday (September 3) in a clash that will now get underway at the later time of 7.30pm.
PANTHERS: Ryan Douglas (guest) 8+1, Simon Lambert 7, Rory Schlein (guest) 5+1, Paul Starke 5, Chris Harris 4+1, Tom Bacon 1, Rider replacement for Ulrich Ostergaard.
NEWCASTLE: Steve Worrall 8, Kyle Newman 6 (guest), Danny King (guest) 5+1, Ash Morris 5, Ben Hopwood 3, Alfie Bowtell 2+1.
1 - Morris (60.3), King, Douglas, Harris. 1-5, 1-5.
2 - Lambert (60.8), Hopwood, Bowtell, Bacon. 3-3, 4-8.
3 - Starke (59.9), Schlein, Newman, Lindgren. 5-1, 9-9.
4 - re-run Worrall (60.4), Lambert (Schlein exc 2 mins), Bowtell, Bacon (fell/exc). 2-4, 11-13.
5 - King (61.0), Starke, Douglas, Morris. 3-3, 14-16.
6 - Harris (60.4), Worrall, Douglas, Hopwood. 4-2, 18-18.
7 - Schlein (60.2), Newman, Lindgren, Lambert. 3-3, 21-21.
8 - Douglas (60.8), Morris, Bacon, Bowtell. 4-2, 25-23.
9 - Worrall (60.8), Lambert, Hopwood, Starke (ret). 2-4, 27-27.
10 - Newman (61.6), Douglas, Harris, Lindgren. 3-3, 30-30.