Tigers fans celebrate BSPA U-turn

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MILDENHALL Fen Tigers’ fans were celebrating this week following the BSPA’s surprise U-turn decision to reinstate the speedway club as a National League outfit.

An 11th hour bid from the three-pronged promotion team of Chris Louis, Kevin Jolly and Michael Lee – believed to be £15,000 – was given the thumbs up by the British Speedway Promoters’ Association on Tuesday.

After folding in August, hopes of a revival under former Wimbledon and Rye House promoter Steve Ribbons were quashed last month when BSPA co- ordinator Peter Morrish disclosed to the Bury Free Press that, “the vote has been made at the BSPA and it has been decided Mildenhall Fen Tigers are not in a position to be granted a licence for the new National League campaign.”

However, following a fresh bid from the ambitious new consortium, the Tigers will roar again when the 10-team National League campaign kicks off at the end of April.

“Something had to be done,” said Ipswich Witches boss Chris Louis, pictured right, this week. “When my calls to Kevin and Michael were met with such excitement and enthusiasm for getting behind the Fen Tigers, we had to move fast.”

One reason believed to be behind the BSPA’s change of mind was the plan to create a speedway academy at the club.

Former Fen Tiger Kevin Jolly, who was part of the previous Ribbons bid, said: “I was certain that the proposal Steve Ribbons and myself put forward last month was sure to be accepted so it’s an understatement to say I was shocked at being turned down. Steve had put a lot of hard work in and without that hard work we wouldn’t be where we are now.

“It seems that the academy being run alongside the club had a big impact on those making the decisions.”

Michael Lee, world speedway champion in 1980, admitted he was left with no choice but to join the project.

“When I received the call from Chris, I just could not pass up the chance,” he said. “To say I am excited about the project is an understatement. I’m so pleased for the local fans that love this club.”

The deal completes a whirlwind seven months for the West Suffolk outfit. Under then team manager John Adams, the Fenmen were on target for an end-of-season play-off berth, before a dramatic turnaround in fortunes off the track in August.

Then-promoter Ray Mascall failed to continue the financing of the club after losing £18,000, and without sealing a rescue package, the club folded – having all their results expunged in the process. A number of businessmen showed an interest in taking the project on, but negotiations are believed to have broken down when trying to agree a rental deal with stadium owner Dave Coventry.

After Ribbons’ bid was rejected last month, it was confirmed by the BSPA that there was no short-term future for the 35-year-old club.

Former riders Oliver Rayson and Joe Jacobs have already been signed up, as has 15-year-old Australian prospect Cameron Heeps.

Rayson’s delighted father, Paul, said: “It is great news. Having the link with Chris Louis and Ipswich Witches will only help us because it will bring in bigger crowds.”

The Tigers’ line-up for the 2011 season is set to be finalised by the end of next week.