Panthers chief Rathbone is set to disappoint a lot of riders

Ged Rathbone.
Ged Rathbone.

Promoter Ged Rathbone is about to disappoint a lot of riders - but he is confident he can delight the Panthers fans.

The club’s chief revealed he has been inundated with calls from racers desperate to earn a spot in his team for the 2017 season in the Speedway Great Britain (SGB) Championship.

The new title for the sport’s second tier was one of several new developments put in place at the British Speedway Promoters’ Association (BSPA) annual meeting last week when a reduced 40-point limit for team building was also introduced.

And the bad news for those riders desperately searching for work next year is that Rathbone already has a strong idea of what he wants his side to look like.

He said: “My phone has genuinely not stopped ringing since the end of the AGM last Thursday.

“We will end up saying ‘no’ to more than 20 riders who have been in touch hoping to secure a place in our team.

“And while it is flattering that so many guys are keen to race for us, we already know the route we want to go down.

“We are working hard to put together a team of riders who will get on well together on and off the track.

“I’m not interested in people with silly demands or those just looking to get a ride anywhere. I only want those riders who really want to be at Peterborough and more than enough have already convinced me that is the case.

“We’re making good progress towards having a team which will be capable of winning consistently at the East of England Showground and entertaining our fans in the process.

“That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to challenge for results on the road, but we really do need to put our poor home form right after it let us down in the last couple of seasons.”

Another key development at the BSPA annual meeting was the introduction of promotion and relegation.

From 2017 onwards, the bottom side in the SGB Premiership (the new name for the Elite League) will face the Championship play-off champions over two legs.

And Rathbone admits the prospect of potentially being able to lead Panthers back to the top level, where they rode with success between 1999 and 2013, is an appealing one.

He added: “We did consider applying to go up for next season, but we felt that this was not the right time to do it.

“We’re already completing the final purchase of the club from Readypower this winter and it would have been too much of a commitment to step up into the Premiership as well.

“But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to get there in the future, and it would be nice to go up by the old fashioned way of earning it.

“I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t compete in the top flight in the new climate in speedway.”

Reigning champions Somerset and Rye House have both stepped up to Premiership level for 2017, creating a nine-team top flight after Lakeside withdrew.

It leaves a 10-team second tier for Panthers to race in with Plymouth not coming to the tapes.

Before the focus turns fully next year, Panthers stage their 2016 end-of-season awards bash tomorrow night (Friday).

The event, laid on by the Peterborough Panthers Speedway Supporters’ Club (PPSSC), is a sell-out at the Post Office Club on Bourges Boulevard.