Tuesday October 22, 2019
DELIGHTED Sheffield Tigers are heading back to speedway's top flight - for the first time in 30 years!

And co-boss Damien Bates says moving into the SGB Premiership is the perfect move in what will be an exciting time at the steel city circuit, with key developments off-track as well.

The move is confirmed today, underlining the club-owning Bates family and Peter Mole determination to make Sheffield one of the top clubs in the country despite having to endure two difficult seasons when, following their Championship title triumph in 2017, they then crashed to the bottom of the table and this year were forced to move away from their traditional racenight. The move still has to go before the forthcoming BSPA AGM but is expected to be rubber stamped.

It's terrific news for one of speedway's leading clubs and its supporters.

Says Bates: "We believe the sport is on the cusp of an exciting time and we want to be a part of it.

"We have had some major successes since we took over from Neil Machin in 2014. That was a hard act to follow but we have been delighted with the trophies that have come our way, especially that title win of two years ago which was something special.

"We now feel the time is right to step up, especially with development work at the stadium having now been completed. It's something we have looked at long and hard and we have assessed all factors in minute detail, so it isn't a kneejerk reaction, it's part of a thought-out business strategy. Sustainability has been the key throughout."

The decision was made after long discussions between Bates Family and co-owner Peter Mole.

It will mean...

* A return to the traditional Thursday race night. Tigers were forced to switched to Sundays in 2019 bringing a mixed reaction from supporters, because the fixed top-flight race days meant Thursday racing wasn't an option.

*Massively improved facilities at Owlerton thanks to the new £5 million conference centre built on the first turn. Speedway fans will be able to use the centre which will have prime viewing areas.

It all spells bumper news for the club which has spent almost three decades in the second tier, apart from the amalgamation seasons of 1995 and '96.

Prior to that, Sheffield raced mostly in the second level until the British League was formed in 1965 and they rode continuously until 1988 when Maurice Ducker's reign as promoter ended. The last top flight meeting at Owlerton was in October that year when the Tigers beat Reading 48-41.

Added Bates: "Sheffield deserve to be in the Premiership and it's our intention to make the team a success.

"This is now an opportunity to establish the Tigers as a blue chip top-end club. We're not going into the Premiership to make up the numbers, it would be daft to think that way.

"When we've done the sums, we know we can assemble a team which will compete all the way. We looked at Ipswich this season and they've proved that it can be done.

"We're looking at several riders, including some with the wow factor, but what we won't do is gamble with the future of the club for a short-term blast at glory.

"The business model we have is all about sustainability, we want to make sure Sheffield Speedway is around next year and the one after that and so on.

"The club is now not for sale and will remain in the hands of the current owners as we embark on this exciting time."

Tigers will now start planning on the team front while there will be more from Owlerton as developments unfold.

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