THE tapes will go up on the new speedway season at Berwick on Saturday with the club hosting a meeting, the proceeds of which will go towards the purchase of their new safety barrier.
The polyfoam fence, the first of its kind in the Premier League, has been installed at a cost of around £45,000.
Riders took to the track for the first time at the weekend when the Bandits staged their annual press and practice session ahead of the new season, and the response to the new structure was positive from everyone.
Promoter John Anderson said: “We have invested a lot of money in the fence and I am sure the riders will appreciate it.
“It is bound to give them a lot more confidence and I am sure in the long run it will prove to be a sound financial investment.”
Saturday’s meeting is being sponsored by the Railway Hotel, Haddington, and all the riders in the individual-style racecard are providing their services free of charge.
The line-up is now complete and will include all seven of the 2012 Bandits (Sebastian Alden, Ricky Ashworth, Lee Complin, Filip Sitera, David Bellago, Michael Hertrich and Alex Edberg) along with Elite League stars Davy Watt and Adam Shields (both from Australia), Finland’s Tero Arnio and top-rated Brit Olly Allen.
Also confirmed are Czech Matej Kus of Redcar, Glasgow’s Josh Grajczonek, former Berwick favourite Josef ‘Pepe’ Franc (now with Sheffield) and two Australians, Glasgow’s Nathan Campton and Newcastle’s Christian Henry,
Berwick commercial manager Phil Newton said: “All these riders are racing for free, they will not be paid.
“To us they are all heroes, because as Davy Watt has said, they all want to put something back into speedway.”
Berwick have confirmed that for the forthcoming season new medical facilities will be provided at Shielfield.
In the wake of news that the town may be about to lose one of its two NHS ambulances, the club, on the advice of paramedics, have decided to reopen their first aid room at the stadium.
A fully equipped medical bag will also be in situ to cover any eventualities.
Anderson said: “I am sure most people in Berwick are aware of the situation surrounding the ambulance.
“Naturally we are concerned, which is why we have decided to take this course of action.
“We have signed the petition to keep the two ambulances in Berwick, and we would urge all speedway fans to do the same, because this could have a knock-on effect.”
Meanwhile, the situation surrounding the ownership of young French talent David Bellago rumbles on.
Two clubs are currently involved in a tug-o-war over the teenager, but it has been confirmed that the question of his ownership will not now be decided until the end of the 2012 season.
Bellago, who rode for a spell with Glasgow in the Premier League last year, made a surprise switch to Berwick during the winter and will turn out for the Bandits this summer.
Initially Berwick released a statement in which they stated he would become their asset after doing the required number of meetings, whilst Glasgow made it known that they were also laying claim to him.
It created a stalemate with the result that the BSPA were asked to intervene.
BSPA member Dave Hoggart said the situation had been resolved for the time being with Bellago basically becoming a BSPA asset until the end of the 2012 season.
“Then, and only then, will the question of asset-ownership be looked at,” he said.
“Berwick and Glasgow are both throwing their hats into the ring, for obvious reasons, but the BSPA does not want to be seen to be creating a precedent with this, which is why they have decided to take this course of action.”
Swedish pair Sebastian Alden and Alex Edberg say they can’t wait to team up again and try and bring some success to Berwick.
The Scandinavian duo both spent part of last season with the Bandits when their paths took very different directions.
For whilst Alden finished the year on a high as the club’s new number one and new track record holder, Edberg missed the final months of the campaign after suffering horrific injuries in a crash at Shielfield.
Alden said: “I can’t wait to get started again. I think this could be a good year for me and the team and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I’ve lost my number one race jacket to Ricky (Ashworth) but I think there will be some healthy competition between us and I will be doing my best to get it back.”
Edberg, who is now fully recovered from his facial and internal injuries, admitted to being a little nervous before he went out for his first practice session, but later he said that after a few laps he had the taste for it again.
“I’ll take the first couple of challenge meetings to ease my way back in,” he said, “then I’ll be back up to speed again.”
Meanwhile, Berwick have signed local youngster Liam Carr as their official number eight rider.
Carr, who is only 16, lives just a few hundred yards away from the Shielfield track, and has been handed his chance after impressing with the Bandits; junior Northern League side last season.
“We want to be seen to be giving young riders a chance,” said promoter John Anderson, “and Liam fits the bill in that respect. The fact he is a Berwick lad makes it all the better.”