Bandits’ Anderson delighted with new-look season

Berwick Bandits manager Ian Rae
Berwick Bandits manager Ian Rae

Berwick Bandits’ director John Ander-son has returned from the sport’s AGM at the weekend, expressing satisfaction with what he anticipates to be a much-improved and wholly competitive fixture schedule for next summer’s speedway season, with trophies on offer which weren’t on the menu in 2011.

“That was my main brief when I entered the conference room,” he said on Sunday evening.

“It has been realised more or less as I had advocated – an early-season, localised mini-league, then the full Premier League schedule and the availability of late-season play-offs to decide the eventual title-winners. All good stuff!”

The promoter was pleased to see a better balance in the Premier League structure, saying: “Now we know the 42.5 points limit remains we can move forward accordingly and I am pleased that the early season League Cup (Premier Trophy) returns, albeit with two groups this time and that we will have end-of-season play-offs at both ends of the table to give all clubs something to aim for later in the season. All in all a very constructive few days.”

Bandits got a bye in the first round of the KO Cup for the second season running and will meet the winners of Somerset/Ipswich in round two.

There will be 10 clubs in the EL and 14 clubs in the PL, this being the same balance, and the same clubs as 2011.

The key points are as follows:

Early season League Cup:

Two groups, each group winner direct to final.

North: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Workington, Newcastle, Berwick, Redcar, Scunthorpe, Sheffield. Clubs will select opponents on a conference basis to give five home and five away fixtures.

South: Rye House, Plymouth, Somerset, Newport, Ipswich, Leicester.

Premier League:

Team building limit 42.5 points for next three years.

One home, one away with top six in league going into play-off system.

Play-off final split into first and second in league who choose other two clubs to join their group in turn for two home and two away. Winners of each group go into a play-off grand final home and away for league champions.

Next six clubs (7-12 in the league) contest a separate competition – same format for league play-off competition. Last two clubs in league will have no participation in play-off competitions.

KO Cup: As before. Berwick and Sheffield have byes to round two.

Anderson is happy that Premier League teams can now begin to construct their squads for next year’s racing.

“We have obviously already talked to our own riders, but could make promises to no-one until we had the confirmation of the 42.5 limit to each team’s averages,” he said.

“Now our directors, alongside team manager Ian Rae, can get to work on our ideas and recruitment planning – and might hope to have something to tell the people in a couple of weeks.”

Rae will now look at team building as the promoters’ conference decisions are set in stone.

The teams challenging for championships in the Premier League in recent seasons have enjoyed strength in depth with at least one reserve if not both capable of match-winning scores.

It is no secret that the most successful Berwick team in recent years (runners-up in 2005) had reserves who could win matches. Will Berwick go down that route in 2012? Well, it is one avenue they will likely be looking at.

Remember, if he were to return in 2012 Alex Edberg would no doubt feature at 6 or 7 on an average of 3.56!

Rae was keeping his cards close to his chest, though, last weekend on the possible Bandits septet.

He would only say: “I am talking to several riders at present, some our own assets, some from other clubs, with permission from the clubs concerned of course. We have a fair idea of where we want to go but it is likely that Saturday, December 3 (supporters club Christmas function) will bring fans the first news of any confirmed signings for next season.”

The good November weather has enabled the Berwick track staff under the guidance of Rae and George Hepburn to make huge progress on the Shielfield safety fence.

The wooden fence and posts on the bends have all been taken down and are now beginning to be moved back to enable the impressive Polyfoam safety fence to be sited in front of the old fence, so enabling the width to remain as before on the turns. On bends three and four this is already well in hand.

This will mean everything will be in place for Saturday, March 17, the proposed starting date by Berwick for the 2012 season. The exact formula of that meeting has yet to be announced by the Bandits but one early-season date which looks a definite is the annual Tyne Tweed Trophy against Newcastle, won over the past few seasons by the Diamonds.

A possible could be Saturday, March 24, with the date of the Newcastle leg to be arranged too.

Both clubs have been in contact recently and the Trophy looks certain to be contested again.