By Henry Chard

Ipswich ‘Tru Mix’ Witches promoter Chris Louis gives his thoughts on the recent British Speedway AGM which sees the club compete in the Sports Insure Premiership again.

The new season sees Birmingham and Oxford step up to the top-flight replacing Wolverhampton and Peterborough.

“It was an AGM of consolidating the Sports Insure Premiership having had the devastating news throughout last season that we would be losing Peterborough and Wolverhampton,” said Louis. “The first thing to say is that we wish everyone involved at both of those clubs the best of luck securing new land and stadia to come back into the league at a future date.

“That said, as a league we welcome Birmingham and Oxford. Oxford is disappointing in a way that we have a club that is riding in two professional leagues but on the flip side it is very positive that they are a club that have come back hugely successfully over the last couple of seasons and feel they are in a good enough position to do that, that is a massive positive story.”

The points limit has been raised to 40 for six riders, with teams to be completed by a Rising Star again, whilst there will now be no restrictions on the number of riders from the Polish Ekstraliga who can be signed by any one club.

“The points limit has increased by a point which has got to be a positive from an entertainment point of view. It is always good when the competition gets stronger and there is no doubt that the way the league is shaping up this year, I think we will have seven competitive teams. They will be built in some cases quite differently which always adds to the entertainment.

“It is going to be an interesting year and not limiting the amount of Polish Ekstraliga riders that can come into one team is a bonus. It was a restriction put there to try and protect teams particularly in the case of a rain-off in Poland where they would re-arrange for a Thursday but as a league the Sports Insure Premiership are trying to bring back as many top riders as they can and over the last season that is the case. We had to look at that and make sure we didn’t restrict ourselves.”

There was a focus on a new programme for youth development next season with each club either competing in the National Development League; or staging events in a new National Individual series; or taking part in a youth programme to be run in second halves following senior meetings, and it is now compulsory for each club to take one of those options.

“It was high up on the agenda to discuss youth development and the National League as it has been and where it can go. The National Development League continues and also every club has been informed that they need to be part of the NDL GP Series or the second halves. We are just trying to offer more track time at our tracks for riders that are trying to come through.”

Several other matters were decided at the AGM including the introduction of a random electronic starting procedure, a change to the eight-day rule for guests during the play-offs whilst any rider in a team is now eligible for Heat 15.

“I think they are all minor tweaks, there are no major changes, and you can’t keep making major changes to the rulebook. They are minor but in the right direction. The random starting machines take something away from the referee and they have proved to be hugely successful in the Grand Prix. Every time I commentate on a GP, I have realised it is a step forward because we used to get a lot of movement at the start, and we really don’t now get people trying to anticipate the start. You can’t read an electronic box, but you can read a referee.

“The eight-day rule in the play-offs, you are choosing from the three clubs who didn’t make it and it can make it difficult if you have a genuine case of needing a guest, so that is a good thing. Heat 15 has been opened up; I have never understood why a reserve who is flying can’t ride in Heat 15.”

Louis says that team building for the new campaign is complete with announcements to be made over the coming days.

“We are looking to announce the team immediately. It is an exciting team and one we will enjoy working with and we were settled on it quite quickly by the end of the season and I am sure the fans will be delighted with it. Season tickets will be on sale in the next week or so.”

For more details on the AGM, head here.