Promoter Ged Rathbone was left delighted and defiant after Peterborough Panthers’ silverware success yesterday (August 6).
The team of Chris Harris, Ulrich Ostergaard, Paul Starke and Simon Lambert collected the first trophy of Rathbone’s reign when powering to SGB Championship Fours glory at the East of England Arena.
It was achieved against a backdrop of acrimony as the Panthers supremo came under fire from the sport’s own governing body for giving his star talent – Jack Holder – permission to miss the meeting to race in Poland.
British Speedway Promoters’ Association (BSPA) chairman Buster Chapman issued a strongly-worded rant on the subject and warned sanctions are likely follow for Panthers.
Chapman’s statement claimed: “The absence of Jack Holder from one of the biggest meetings in the domestic calendar is nothing to do with the BSPA Management Committee.
“We are appalled by Peterborough in allowing this situation to arise. I have been desperately trying to protect British Speedway with dates and contracted fixtures for riders and when a club ignores that we might as well all give up. Contractually and by agreement the rider should be at Peterborough, not in Poland.
“If the rider had gone to Poland and raced without the permission of his club he would have been banned for withholding his services for 28 days - this is not the case with Jack Holder as his club have given him their blessing and we have evidence of the true reason. They have sold British Speedway down the river.
“It is not to our satisfaction and we will now put in place the relevant sanctions to apply to the Peterborough Speedway promotion.
“This is a major blow to the sport in the UK and the blame is very firmly at the door of Peterborough Speedway.”
Rathbone remains adamant he did the right thing in not standing in the way of one of the brightest talents in the sport.
And he was thrilled to serve up a terrific Fours meeting in front of a bumper crowd at Alwalton – with a somewhat unexpected victory for Panthers providing further satisfaction.
Rathbone, who admitted he has come in for a ‘massive’ amount of stick, said: “A statement went out from the BSPA half-an-hour before the Fours started. It makes you question why you bother putting in so much effort to stage a big meeting.
“We get nothing from it other than the pride and satisfaction of putting on a show for speedway fans from all over the country - and there’s more we want to do.
“I will go on record and say I have not sold British speedway down the river as that BSPA statement suggests.
“My best interest is always British speedway and I have acted on what is best in the bigger picture for Peterborough Speedway.
“I could have insisted Jack rode in the Fours and had he chosen to go to Poland instead, he would have been hit with a 28-day ban. I don’t want to see that.
“Jack has been called into a Polish team to replace the current world champion and has the potential to be that himself in the future.
“It would not be right to stop someone from taking an opportunity like that, and we proved that we were strong enough to win the Fours without him anyway.
“Peterborough is a stepping stone in Jack’s career and I will not stand in his way. If Jack is lucky enough to lift the world title at some point, he will either mention us or know in the back of his head that we’ve played a part in helping him achieve it.
“As a club, that’s all we can ask for and now we’re going to enjoy winning the Fours. I always said I would do everything possible to bring silverware to the club and this success is for the supporters.”