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Press Release Archive May 29th 2002 Track

BECKY PARTRIDGE  Sunday, June 23, 2002  17:09 GMT


29th May 2002

Dons Track Licence suspended

WIMBLEDON have had their racing licence suspended by the Speedway Control
Board until essential track work is completed to bring the Plough Lane
circuit up to an acceptable standard.  Co-boss David Croucher has revealed
that he and partner Steve Ribbons, the men behind the revival of the sport in
South London this year, are forming a five-man consortium to ensure the Dons
survive their troubled start to the season. Wimbledon's comeback campaign has
got off to the worst possible beginning, with rain ruining the grand
reopening meeting against Belle Vue Colts on May 2 and the proposed second
meeting being cancelled because the club were unable to obtain sufficient
shale. After losing to Buxton in their first home Conference League fixture on
May 16, the Dons suffered another disastrous blow last week, when the match
against Boston had to be postponed - with the crowd already in the stadium -
due to the non-arrival of the track doctor. Croucher now admits: "My main
concern is to make sure we survive this. If Wimbledon Speedway closes down
again, it will never re-open and Steve and I don't want to be known for that.
I don't want to be seen to have failed. The Dons were informed by the SCB
that their licence had been suspended as Speedway Star went to press on
Tuesday. There was no meeting scheduled at Plough Lane this week anyway
because the stadium is hosting the Greyhound Derby and Croucher immediately
confirmed there would be no speedway next week either, with the KO Cup clash
against Rye House Raiders being called off.  "We definitely will not run on
June 6, but we will try to get the work done in time to re-open on June 13,"
he said. "I received the letter saying our licence had been suspended on
Tuesday because the Control Board are concerned about the kerb in the track.
The upshot of that is that we now have a plan in place to get the work done
in two or three weeks while we are forming a consortium at the same time.  Our
feeling now is that this is too big an operation for just the pair of us on
our own and we're going to need other people who are supporters to help us.
For a start, I've got other business commitments and they have really
suffered in the last six or eight months.  We are currently putting together a
board of five, which will include myself and Steve, who will continue to run
the speedway side. Two of the businessmen are accountants.  We are starting to
bleed to death financially. We lost meeting number two, and we will now have
to run meeting four with virtually no money coming through the turnstiles
because of the readmission tickets from last week.  There was all the hype
about us getting 4,000 for our first crowd but that wasn't right. We had
2,600 paying through the turnstiles, for the second meeting we had 1,183 and
last week it was down to 990.  We're in a situation where the public are
voting with their feet because we are not getting the show right. That means
we've got to get the track right".  One positive for the Dons management is
that Plough Lane hosted its final stock-car meeting of the season last
weekend and the cars won't return until August. That means Wimbledon won't be
forced to lay a temporary track for speedway meetings, and then rip it all up
again afterwards, as has been the case in the two meetings staged so far. The
temporary circuit, coupled with a cloudburst two hours before the start, led
to farcical conditions for the opening meeting on May 2, with race times well
over the 90-second mark. Things improved for the second meeting a fortnight
later, with the track reshaped as the white line was bought in, exposing the
old speedway circuit and inner kerb from when the Dons last rode at Plough
Lane in 1991."We've got to spend money on doing the kerb but I believe we can
get the track right," continued Croucher. "It's only a question of building up
on what we've got, we'll bring the safety fence in eight metres from the
stock-car posts and then the track will be pretty much as it was when
speedway closed down last time. "At least the stock-cars have finished for now
because the problem at Wimbledon is always access to the stadium. The stocks
run three Sundays in a month, there's the greyhounds, car boot sales, they
even do bus driver training in the car park. "We couldn't get in until Monday,
we had Tuesdays until 12, Wednesdays after the dog trials and it's almost
impossible to get gangs of workmen with their equipment to go in for four
hours or so. Now the stock-cars have finished, we might possibly be able to
do the work in two weeks, but it will probably be more like three.  We're
bitterly disappointed but we're not going to give up the fight. We seem to
have had every bit of bad luck going, culminating in the doctor not turning
up last week. We still don't know what happened to the paramedic, even now.
People were asking who was supposed to confirm the paramedic, but it should
not have needed confirming. The paramedic was here for match one, he would
have been here for match two if it hadn't been called off anyway, and he was
here for match three.  We still haven't been able to track him down to find
out what happened.  One guy threw his programme at me afterwards and we had a
handful of disgruntled people afterwards, probably about 30, but by far the
majority of fans were all saying the same, that it was such a shame and that
they all realise we're all trying so hard. It shows they do want a speedway
team at Wimbledon".

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