BERWICK will stage what BSPA chairman Alex Harkness refers to as ‘one of the most monumental meetings ever staged by a Premier League team’ this weekend.
For the Bandits will take on an Edinburgh Select at Shielfield this Saturday in a challenge meeting, the gate receipts from which will help the club pay the cost of the polyfoam safety barrier they plan to install next season.
Riders from both teams will be riding for expenses only, and naturally Berwick are hoping the event will attract a bumper crowd.
Speaking at Shielfield on Saturday, during the narrow home win over Rye House, Harkness said this was a very important meeting, not only in the context of the club, but the Premier League in general.
“Several years ago all the Elite League clubs ran similar meetings to help them pay for their air fences,” he said.
“But technology moves on, and the polyfoam barriers are the next generation if you like.
“They are more expensive, but at a track like Berwick they can be a permanent fixture.
“No clubs in the Premier League either have the barriers installed yet or have even held any meetings like this to help pay for them, so in both respects this will be a first, for Berwick and the Premier League.
“I would go so far as to say it is one of the most monumental meetings ever staged in the history of the Premier League.”
Berwick promoter John Anderson also stressed the importance of the meeting when he added: “The club have done their bit, the riders are doing theirs, now it is up to the fans to come and give us their backing.
“We need as many supporters as possible to turn up on Satur-day, because at the end of the day they will be helping to secure the long-term future of the club.
“We are installing the barrier because we take rider safety very seriously indeed.
“And there might even be a spin-off for us, because if we get the barrier installed there is no reason why we cannot then apply for some big events in the future.”
Anderson said the club had already made arrangements for the first instalment on the barrier. The challenge meeting would go towards the second instalment, which is due at the beginning of December.
Initially, Berwick had agreed to race against Newcastle, but due to the unavailability of some of their riders the Diamonds had indicated that they were unable to fulfil the fixture.
“Edinburgh have stepped in at very short notice,” said Anderson, “and we would like to thank them very much for their co-operation in the matter.”
The Monarchs will be boosted by the inclusion of former favourite Ryan Fisher, whilst Berwick will hope to effectively be at full strength, with new Swede Linus Eklof scheduled to make his full home debut after crashing out in his opening meeting last Saturday.
Eklof, who is 22, joined the club last week as a replacement for Kozza Smith who has been ruled out for the rest of the season after breaking his shoulder whilst riding for King’s Lynn in the Elite League.
He was included in the Bandits’ line-up for the home meeting against Rye House at the weekend, but only lasted ten seconds before crashing out in his first ride.
Rockets’ Luke Bowen fell in front of him as the pair entered the third bend in heat three.
Eklof smashed into him from behind and was thrown from his machine.
Bowen walked back to the pits, but the new Bandit received lengthy trackside treatment from paramedics before being stretchered to a waiting ambulance and being taken to hospital where he underwent further tests following a knock to the head.
Thankfully, there was no lasting damage. Eklof was released from hospital the following day and will now make his debut for the team in tonight’s (Thursday) away Premier League meeting at Ipswich.
Team manager Ian Rae said: “With Kozza Smith’s broken shoulder clearly going to take some time to heal, we needed an injury replacement.
“We had sounded out a couple of British riders without clubs, but we met with no success, and so we opted for Linus who comes recommended by both Seb and Ludvig.
“Thankfully he was not seriously hurt on Saturday and we are looking forward to him riding this week.”