SPEEDWAY will welcome the famous Coventry Bees name back to competitive action this season.
But the world-famous club will not be competing at its traditional Brandon home – or even in the sport’s top tier.
Promoter Mick Horton has been accepted into the National League – speedway’s third tier – to operate Bees at Leicester’s Beaumont Park Stadium, some 28 miles from the club’s historical Coventry Stadium venue.
Bees were due to race at Leicester for the 2017 Premiership season, but the British Speedway Promoters Association (BSPA) axed the club from the league weeks before the season was due to start.
It meant Bees failed to track a team in a British league for the first time since 1948.
But Coventry’s participation in this year’s National League was confirmed at a Speedway Control Bureau (SCB) meeting.
An SCB spokesperson said: “It is with great delight Coventry Speedway have been given the go ahead to run in the National Development League at a temporary home at Leicester for the 2018 season.
“Members of the SCB wish the Coventry promotion all the best in their endeavours to bring Bees back to Brandon in the near future.”
Many fans reacted to the news with anger after it was alleged Mr Horton used money from Coventry Stadium owners Brandon Estates to fund the move.
But Mr Horton denied the allegations and confirmed there was no financial input from Brandon Estates, who plan to build 137 homes on the former speedway site.
A spokesperson for the Save Coventry Speedway campaign said the group was satisfied the Leicester move wouldn’t harm efforts to bring the Bees home.
They said: “Our complete focus is on fighting the proposals to redevelop the stadium with the objective of facilitating a return to Coventry.
“It must be stressed that the reason why Coventry are unable to race at Brandon in 2018 is not down to Mick Horton. That is entirely a matter for Brandon Estates.
“We needed to be satisfied that the National League venture at Leicester was not being supported financially by Brandon Estates. We have been given a categorical assurance by Mick Horton that there is no financial input from the developers.
“That being the case, we are satisfied that having a Bees team racing 30 miles away is unlikely to have a detrimental effect on efforts to restore speedway and stock car racing to Coventry.”
Many fans took to social media stating they would not support Bees while they raced at Leicester.
A Coventry Observer poll in November revealed 78.6 per cent of fans would not support Bees’ National League efforts at Leicester.
But the campaign group said a fan-base split would be the ‘worst thing’ that could happen.
The spokesperson added: “We are unified by our desire to get back to Coventry as soon as possible, and in the meantime people should be free to make their own choice without receiving criticism from within.
“For the campaign group it is important to maintain the momentum which was built up during 2017, where there is huge opposition to the proposed redevelopment.”
Brandon Estates has not yet responded to a request for comment.
*THE BEES have signed riders for the upcoming National League campaign.
Former British Youth Champion Jack Parkinson-Blackburn has made the switch from Birmingham to sign up to the No.1 position, while veteran racer Jon Armstrong also joins as skipper.
Promoter Mick Horton confirmed the rest of Bees’ team was in place, and further announcements will be made in the coming weeks.
He added: “Until such time as a resolution is found to re-home the Bees in the Rugby/Coventry area, it is important we all come together and support the riders on track.
“I am under no illusions that racing at Leicester will be easy. However, I know we must keep the famous Bees name alive and racing.
“With the fans’ support, we can achieve this.”
Admission prices for the 2018 season have been set at £13 for adults with under-16s free of charge.