GED Rathbone insists speedway would never have returned to Peterborough had his winter survival mission not succeeded.
In a revealing interview on the eve of the new season, the North-East businessman confirms the club’s landlords would have ripped up the East of England Showground track had Panthers not received the green light to race on in 2015.
It is a stark admission which highlights how close a club with a proud history stretching back to 1970 came to biting the dust before a £40,000 fundraising target to race on was met in late November.
Promoter Rathbone said: “We cannot thank the people at the Showground enough for the way they bent over backwards during the winter to work with us, advise us and help to keep us on track.
“But the Showground is run as a business and if there was not going to be speedway, they had to put the facilities to some other use.
“They did make it quite clear to us that the track was two or three weeks away from being replaced by something else if we didn’t carry on.
“It would have been a tragedy to lose what is one of the best venues in the country. Even after more than a year of coming here, my heart beats a little bit faster every time I drive in because it is such a fantastic place.
“A massive amount of man-hours have been put in behind the scenes throughout the winter. People have just never stopped. They’ve been on Panthers business seven days-a-week until the small hours despite having their own jobs.
“The amount of phone calls, emails and messages I’ve received during the winter highlight how much the club means to a lot of people.
“However, survival alone is not enough to satisfy us – that is merely the completion of our first task.
“The challenge now is to ensure the club is here for the long-term and also successful on the track.
“The whole idea is to make the club one big family from the riders to the management and the supporters. We are all in it together and hopefully we will all be able to enjoy some good times.”
And Rathbone makes no secret of his desire for Panthers to challenge for all available honours in the coming weeks and months.
He continued: “We need to be professional and we need to go into every single meeting – home or away – with the expectation of winning it.
“It is essential to be strong at home in speedway and we are well aware that we cannot afford to drop a point on our own track.
“And we’re certainly not going to travel to other places with the aim of keeping it close and picking up a consolation league point. If that is the mindset there is no point in even bothering to turn up.
“We have put together a team which we feel can pick up results everywhere.”