Panthers up for sale
SATURDAY’S MEETING COULD BE THE LAST IN PETERBOROUGH
The future of Peterborough Panthers is up in the air again.
The city club has been placed up for sale by owner Ged Rathbone, who will end his four-year reign at the East of England Arena at the end of the current season.
That could be as soon as this weekend with Panthers big underdogs in both competitions they still feature in - the SGB Championship KO Cup and play-offs.
Rathbone, who has notified the British Speedway Promoters’ Association (BSPA) of his intention to sell, said: “I’ve had a fantastic four years at Peterborough, but I feel it is the right time to walk away.
“Ideally a buyer can be found quickly and a deal completed ahead of the sport’s AGM in mid-November.
“As it stands there is a possibility that our meeting against Scunthorpe on Saturday could be the last speedway event in Peterborough.
“I desperately hope that is not the case, though. I’ll do all I can to ensure the club races on, but that depends on the right person or people coming forward.”
Team manager Carl Johnson will also stand down at the end of this season.
Outgoing owner Ged Rathbone insists recent results did not influence his decision to sell Panthers – but dwindling crowds were a factor.
The city club have seen a terrific season collapse in recent weeks after being cruelly hit by a major injury crisis.
They bowed out of the SGB Championship Shield at the semi-final stage to Lakeside and trail the same opponents by two points following the first leg of their last-four showdown in the play-offs.
Panthers are also odds-on to see the defence of their KO Cup crown end with a semi-final exit after being walloped by Scunthorpe in the first leg.
Even more disappointing for Middlesbrough-based businessman Rathbone, though, has been a series of poor crowds for big meetings in all three competitions.
Rathbone, who led the fight to keep the club alive back in late 2014 and completed a full purchase a couple of years later, said: “I want to stress this is not a knee-jerk reaction to recent performances even though it is very frustrating to have seen us come so close to making history.
“It’s been an incredible season at times and it is certainly not beyond us to reach the play-off final, but we obviously have our work cut out in the KO Cup.
“I would never dream of knocking our fans, but seeing such low crowds for our last four home meetings – our biggest matches of the season – has really confirmed my decision to sell along with the uncertainty over the future direction of the sport.
“I do have a great deal of finance tied up in the club so there is a small chance I could continue next year in certain circumstances, but that is certainly not my intention.
“It’s a three-hour trip here and back for every home meeting and it is a huge commitment. Running a speedway club is a hobby that quickly becomes a full-time job in addition to my full-time job!
“It’s 24/7 for 365 days of the year and that obviously has a knock-on effect on my business and family life.
“I’m very proud of the way the club has always broken even and how we have enjoyed success despite operating on a tight and sensible budget.
“We’ve also managed to attract some top stars to ride for Peterborough – guys like Scott Nicholls, Chris Harris, Kenneth Bjerre, Craig Cook and Jack Holder.
“I love the club and everyone who helps to make speedway possible at Peterborough, and there will be plenty of other clubs who are envious of what we have achieved.”
Rathbone has heaped praise on team boss Carl Johnson, who is also standing down at the end of the campaign.
The popular local man has overseenallthreeteamtrophy triumphs during Rathbone’s reign – the KO Cup and Fours successes of 2017 and the successful defence of the latter crown this summer.
Rathbone added: “What people don’t see is the amount of work Carl does for the club in addition to being team manager and, like myself, he has never taken a penny out of the club. He doesn’t even claim mileage for going to places like Glasgow and Edinburgh.”
Anyone interested in purchasing the club should contact Rathbone by email – firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance.
Simon Lambert leads the way for Panthers against Lakeside last Sunday.
Simon Lambert was in great form for Panthers against Lakeside on Sunday.