Shock resignation at Peterborough Panthers as co-promoter bemoans a 'lack of support and enthusiasm'

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Peterborough Panthers have been plunged into total turmoil after Carl Johnson quit as the club’s promoter.

It leaves the Panthers not only rooted to the bottom of the Premiership after only one win all season, but now apparently rudderless following Johnson’s departure.

Johnson had become increasingly frustrated over the club’s inability to replace three-times world champion Nicki Pedersen after the Danish superstar crashed out on the second bend at the opening meeting of the season at the East of England Arena and then turned his back on the club despite being under a season-long contract.

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Pedersen, who had spent most of last season recovering from serious injuries, admitted that his body wouldn’t be able to cope with the demands of racing in the UK as well as Poland and Denmark.

Carl Johnson.Carl Johnson.
Carl Johnson.

In his emotional resignation statement Johnson, who has been a mainstay of the club since taking over as team manager nine years ago and, in 2019, becoming co-promoter with the late Colin Pratt, spoke of ‘a lack of support and enthusiasm draining away his love of speedway.’

Johnson, a life-long fan who rode for the club’s junior team in the nineties, said: “It is with deep regret that I tendered my notice as promoter of Peterborough speedway after the successful Ulrich Ostergaard ‘Farewell’ meeting on Sunday.

“I feel I cannot continue my role within the club and feel deeply saddened that more hasn’t been done to support our fantastic club.

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“We, as fans, deserve more and the lack of enthusiasm shown has taken its toll on myself over the season. I feel the love for the sport I’ve had for over 40 years has been drained from me.

“The love for my club will never change and I wish everyone at the club all the best for the rest of the season.

“I’ve personally thanked the people I need to, that have been by my side and have been there for the club.”

Panthers have been given notice to quit the East of England Showground to make way for a major housing development on the site and expect this will be their final season at what has been their home since 1970.

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And Johnson has vowed to do everything he can to try and secure a future for the club elsewhere in the city.

He added: “I will, however, be pushing forward with plans for the future with two potential sites for relocation.”

The news of Johnson’s departure – leaving the Panthers, which is owned by Keith Chapman, without a licensed promoter – came as a bombshell just hours after they went down to their heaviest defeat of a dreadful season in which they have lost 12 of their 13 matches so far, at Leicester on Thursday night.

Having finished at the bottom of the Premiership table last year, the team is heading for back-to-back wooden spoons with 11 matches left.

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Johnson, who had no control over the rider budget, spoke exclusively of his frustrations in an interview with the Peterborough Telegraph last month when he claimed: It’s been a very testing time. I’ve always had someone else holding the purse strings, someone in control.

“We have tried everything. It’s been hard work and we just wish we’d had 100% backing from elsewhere. We have had to go down different routes to find things out but that’s life we will keep going and keep pushing.

“We don’t want the club to disappear without a fight and we don’t want to lose too many matches this season.

“I understand the fans getting riled, I totally understand. We get a lot of grief on social media, but there’s not a lot I can do personally.

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“I want the best for Peterborough speedway so I understand the fans getting upset when things are not happening, but I can’t control that, I want it as much as they do. There’s nobody who wants it more than I do, but you can’t have everything on a shoestring.”

In the same interview, he revealed that latest pin-up Vadim Tarasenko had agreed to join the club and that he was also 85-90% confident that Australian star Rohan Tungate, who lives in Poland where he races regularly, would be joining him in a double signing to strengthen the line-up.

But two weeks later, while not actually naming the club involved, Tungate revealed: “I was talking to a club. I pretty much had a deal in place, and this was recently. I organised the bikes and we planned to pick them up and get them ready. We went to the speedway shop and got everything. We built the bikes up, but then I didn’t hear anything. It was a little bit strange. I even got sent the club’s suit by email.

“Now I have some bikes ready to go in Britain and I am just waiting. I don’t really know the full story. It’s a little bit messy.

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“There were meant to be two changes for that team, and I had pretty much done a deal. They just needed to put it on paper, and I would have signed it. But that deal didn’t come back to me.

“I won’t go into the full details, but it wasn’t good. It’s just so messy and I don’t really understand it. It’s a bit disappointing, to be honest.”