Just a couple of weeks ago it saw some shocking news coming out of the Annual British Speedway Promoters Associate AGM down in Broxbourne, with the announcement that one of the most famous and historic names in British Speedway in the form of the Belle Vue Aces had their membership being annulled by the speedway chiefs, due to financial problems within the Belle Vue setup.
The news came just a few days after former Belle Vue CEO David Gordon had stepped down from his role within the club, that left the duo of former Aces rider Chris Morton and George Carswell in charge of the Manchester club fortunes from now on.
However, as rumours ran rife on social media that something ‘big’ was about to break involving the Aces, it saw one fan tweeting ‘things looking bleak’ when in connection to Belle Vue. Those rumours turned out to be sadly true, as it announced through a press release by the (BSPA) that the Belle Vue promotion was to have their licence revoked and annulled due to financial irregularities.
Things were then expanded upon ‘by the powers that be’ as they soon revealed that the reason for the annulment of the Manchester club, was all down to the Aces management having not paid any rent to the Council all season.
In the same press release from the BSPA, it saw Manchester City Council also taking the decision not to renew the licence for the club at the National Speedway Stadium as Leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese, was quoted as saying in the Press release: “Since taking control of the National Speedway Stadium in March this year, BV Arena Ltd have also failed to meet important requirements of their agreement, including paying any rent on the property to the City Council.
“As a result Manchester City Council therefore are unable to renew Belle Vue Aces licence to occupy the building in their current position. It has also come to light that the group companies have significant debt not only with the Council but also other parties.
“The City Council will now work closely with the BSPA to put in arrangements that can ensure the success of the National Speedway Stadium and develop of speedway in Manchester.
It saw a joint statement by Chairman Keith Chapman and the BSPA stating on the Aces situation that ‘the BSPA agreed to recommend that Belle Vue Speedway promotion be annulled from their financial situation and that it would kick in over the next few days’. One thing of note from the press release was that despite the club having their licence taken from them, it was not necessarily the end of the club and that a further release was then put out stating that both Leicester- who of which are in the same boat as the Aces are in- had them and Belle Vue both being pencilled in to run come 2017.
This then led to some Aces fans venting their anger towards different people over social media in regards to the annulment of the club. While a large group of Belle Vue fans accused the BSPA of trying to kill off their club, for Aces fans the British Speedway Bureau has always being the biggest thorn in their side when they have clashed with the Gorton-based club and a lot of ill feeling has been levelled against the BSPA and sometimes not always fairly.
Many fans feel and believe that they have always been getting the rough end of the stick from ‘the powers that be’ since back in the old John Perrin days in the mid-90′ when the two regularly butted head.
Former Aces promoter and Team Manager the Late John Perrin had many run-in’s with the BSPA over riders and how he felt the sport was being run, and he wasn’t one bit concerned over who he upset and would challenge the top brass numerous times over his term in charge of Belle Vue. He was in a sense a bit of a maverick and anti-establishment in a way with how he dealt with the people at the top and did also rub senior members and upset a lot of people, rightly or wrongly. One thing that could never be levelled at Perrin was that he lacked ambition and that he didn’t shy away from anything and always gave his all to the club, but did also prove to be equally as much of a thorn for the British Speedway chiefs too.
Since the press releases were put out on the Thursday afternoon (3rd of October) from the British speedway chiefs, it has since saw David Gordon responding to what the BSPA and Manchester City Council put out to the media that day or saw the fireworks- which was convenient having been on Bonfire night the day of the reply. David Gordon who as previously stated earlier, stood down from his role as CEO of Belle Vue Speedway and then went on the offensive in an interview, as he gave it both barrels to the local press and had him not mincing his words.
In the interview with the Manchester Evening News, he told of his ‘disappointment for all supporters,staff and management at the club for the demise that had been forced on the club’. Gordon said also that ‘they’ were pursuing legal action for the people who were involved in the problems that had beset the club back a month of opening on time, due to their Grand Opening fiasco back in March. It also proved to be an embarrassingly way to open up their first event at the new stadium, after the meeting was abandoned due to an unfit track and saw the club and Gordon losing thousands of pounds as a result.
He told the MEN, “after 10 years working on this project we are distraught that the negligent actions of other people are the cause of all the problems we have faced this season which has affectively destroyed the Club.
Gordon then added further, “It’s shameful, the people responsible for the defective track are the track builders and as a consequence the project management. A report by leading structural engineers clearly put the blame for the defective track on the constructors.
“We never recovered from the financial impact of the Grand Opening Meeting being called off on March 19 when the stadium was packed and racing was about to start. We lost so much momentum and income that we have been on the back foot ever since.”
Speaking as a fan of the club for twenty-six years and a regular on the terraces at Kirkmanshulme Lane for twenty years, the ill-fated Peter Craven Memorial Trophy meeting back in March was an absolute disaster. For those spectators that attended the event and where tickets were like goldust to get your hands on the opening meeting, it proved to be was a complete and utter nightmare as well as a massive black eye for the club. It was clear to see from having watched the riders riding around the track that something wasn’t right and that the base had not bedded anywhere close to how it should have been, which led to riders commenting on it afterwards and was saying that the track was sinking six-inches due to the track being clearly not sorted.
Some riders on social media were stating that there was rumours going round days before the opening night, that track was unfit and that it was still being worked on the day before. That night also represented the closest thing to a riot I have ever been around that involved speedway. Matters weren’t helped with a 45 minute wait, after the riders cut short their practice laps on the track and had everyone inside the stadium awaiting any news or update on what was going on.
After the fans were told of the dreaded ‘riders meeting’ taking place, it then saw the long figures of Gordon and Morton both walking to the centre green with microphone in hand and apologising to the bumper crowd in attendance for the cancellation of the meeting. Irate supporters showed their displeasure towards the promotion by booing over the Aces management speaking on the mic and needed Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris to come out to save the day.
‘Bomber’ calmed the situation by addressing the crowd over the concerns that the riders had and in truth it was the only option they could have taken on the night.
Moving to the present day and the weekend that followed the announcement, had Aces fans still feeling frustrated over the entire goings on and wanting answers to questions and having no-one that could or would give them the answers they wanted. With the club now left in limbo and unsure as to its immediate future to date, it sees a club that has finished runner’s up in the grand final two years running and now has the sorry state of having no promoters, no Colts either and no technically no home. But should things be sorted hopefully, then it looks fairly safe that should still be able to track a team, whether Premiership or National League at the very least next year in the NSS.
The irony of the whole thing and is slightly laughable in a sense, is that Belle Vue for so long have apparently tried new ways of introducing fans to the sport and have always wanted exposure in the local paper. However, through this incident they have accidentally stumbled upon the publicity the club wanted, sadly though it isn’t for the right reasons and the once famous Aces keep finding ways of shooting themselves in the foot with unwanted coverage in the press. That said though, they do say that ‘bad publicity, is good publicity’.
The following Monday (7th of November) saw another member of the promotion team giving their thoughts to their licence being annulled as part of the Aces woes, in club legend Chris Morton. It saw the former British Champion distancing himself away from the comments made by his former business partner in David Gordon.
Morton tried to put some positive spin on the gloomy news that has surrounded the club this past seven days, by saying, “It could herald a new start for the Aces”.
With Gordon seemingly washing his hands completely of the ‘concerns of the financial side of the club’ to which the BSPA PR stated, it saw Morton not hiding behind anyone over the news and admitted to the MEN, “While I accept responsibility for my part in this project, both good and bad, I am devastated by what has happened and will take time to consider everything,”
Chris Morton was also complimentary of the Manchester City Council for helping with the process of getting the stadium from a built and from turning a pipe-dream into a reality, he added,“I would like to thank Manchester City Council for believing in this project. Belle Vue Speedway has the opportunity to grow from this point.
It couldn’t have seen two more different interviews given by the two main men at the heart of this whole sorry saga in the clubs history, as both gave very different answers when expressing their feelings on the situation in question. Reading Gordon’s interview, it was almost like he and the Aces were the victims of those from outside the sport and were the reason for the problems. When scanning over the comments that Morton made on things, then it was a case of someone who was far more remorseful and just wanted to see his former side in a healthy state and being less angry than that of Gordon.
The former CEO was quoted as saying “The actions of other people are the cause of the problems we have faced this season”, meanwhile his partner for the last nine-years in Chris Morton, was also quick to refute the claims that had been brought up by Gordon. One very interesting twist to the tale was Morton saying that he had now broken his working relationship with the man that he worked with for nearly a decade.
Morton finished off by saying the article, “I have taken time to reflect on my position and, following a recent press release from Belle Vue CEO David Gordon, I wish to make it clear I did not agree to these comments being made or released,” he said. “This does not fully represent myself or my thoughts and opinions. David and I have worked together and have not always agreed. “I have let David know that our partnership has now come to an end.”
It does seem very much like the relationship the two has gone South pretty quickly and that it seems to have almost dissolved the relationship from the outside looking in. Questions still remain though from the whole fallout of this news, like ‘Did they think they could avoid paying the council rent on the stadium?’ and also did they try to sort anything out with the Council after they worked with the club to repair the track.
There are some stories too that came out and it didn’t look good on the club at all, with some riders not being paid for months by the club and that went into the final month of the season and even during the Grand Final of which saw them losing on the title to Wolverhampton. Rumours of riders still being owed money with some of the figures being allegedly banded about in excess of £2ok, but they are only rumoured numbers.
As I bring this blog entry to a close, as saw many fans of rival teams often giving their thoughts on the Belle Vue promotion and used the terms ‘joke’,’clowns’and ‘incapable’ for starters. Arguably though, some of the comments made by other fans maybe hiding a hint of jealousy possibly to their words too. As with the duo of Gordon and Morton delivering on a rare promise that they made coming true, it is certainly the only good aspect that they have left in the future, should the club have a future.
Whilst we await the next snippet of news to come out on the next chapter of Belle Vue speedway’s tapestry, it does seems certain that the truth will never be fully forthcoming and that fans will always be left in the dark over the near occasion that the sport lost not only a team in Manchester, but a jewel in the Speedway sporting crown.