Pan­thers up for sale

SATUR­DAY’S MEET­ING COULD BE THE LAST IN PETER­BOR­OUGH

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - YOUR TELEGRAPH - By Mark Plum­mer SPEED­WAY COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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 – mo­tive­car@ya­hoo.co.uk 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.

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