SPEEDWAY: Panthers fury at play-off date, but full-strength team set to take part

Anders Thomsen will now race for Panthers in a play-off meeting at Sheffield.
Anders Thomsen will now race for Panthers in a play-off meeting at Sheffield.

Peterborough Panthers’ play-off challenge will begin in acrimonious circumstances on Thursday (September 17).

The city club had refused to agree to a quarter-final first leg clash at Sheffield on that date because they believed they would be without three key riders, but they’ve now been ordered to travel to Owlerton.

Furious promoter Ged Rathbone had discussions with the British Speedway Promoters’ Association (BSPA) in the hope they would step in, but they proved fruitless.

But club bosses have now persuaded the trio who were due to miss the meeting – Ben Barker, Anders Thomsen and Emil Grondal – to race.

Thomsen and Grondal both ride in the final round of the World Under 21 Championship in the Czech Republic on Saturday (September 19) while Ben Barker competes in the Golden Helmet at the same Pardubice track the following day.

Rathbone said: “I always thought the agreement of two promoters was required for a meeting to go ahead, but that is clearly not the case.

“I was also under the impression that by finishing higher in the table, we had the choice of when to stage our home leg. Again that has not happened.

“To say I’m furious about this situation after working so hard to keep the club going and then reach the play-offs is an under-statement,

“There can be no other explanation for Sheffield insisting on racing on this date than the fact they believed we were going to be without three riders and would have to use National League lads as guests.

“But they are going to be in for a surprise as we have pulled the stops out to make sure Ben, Anders and Emil will all be there.

“They have all agreed to change their plans to be there to help our challenge for honours and they will then be flown out to the Czech Republic at considerable cost to the club.

“But the one thing we cannot change is the fact that a lot of our supporters will be unable to make it to Sheffield at such short notice.

“The ridiculous decision to insist on this meeting going ahead is a kick in the teeth to our team, our fans and the sport in general.

“And what makes it worse is that the other quarter-final between Plymouth and Glasgow is not even scheduled yet – and probably won’t take place until October.”

BSPA chairman Alex Harkess said: “We always try and assist the home side to get a meeting on where possible and this is the case here.

“It is never ideal running meetings late in October so hopefully this decision to push ahead with the Sheffield v Peterborough fixture will help with that.

“We are still awaiting confirmation of the reverse fixture at the East of England Showground but hopefully there will be some news on that soon.”

Panthers plan to stage the second leg at the East of England Showground on either September 25 or 27.