A petition has been launched to secure the long-term future of SGB Premiership club Wolverhampton Wolves after the speedway outfit was informed that its tenancy deal at historic home Monmore Green will not be extended beyond this year.
The decision has been taken by sports betting and gaming group Entain, which owns the stadium and is looking to focus on its primary usage as a greyhound racing venue. Wolverhampton Speedway has received notification that speedway racing will cease at Monmore Green on October 31.
“Monmore has enjoyed a long and proud relationship with the Wolverhampton Wolves and this decision has not been taken lightly,” said Leo Walker, Entain’s transformation and experience director, according to the Express & Star newspaper.
“However, following the launch of Premier Greyhound Racing we have taken a decision to centre our resource and investment on greyhound racing at the track. We understand that fans of Wolverhampton Wolves and Speedway will be disappointed by this news and we are supporting Chris Van Straaten, CEO of Wolverhampton Wolves, through this transition.”
Wolves, one of the traditional leading lights in British speedway, have raced at Monmore Green since 1928, making it the oldest speedway track in the UK and one of the oldest in the world. Van Straaten, who has led the club since 1986, said he had been “knocked over” by the decision.
“I’ve been punched that many times in the 36 years I’ve been there, and I usually bounce back up, but this is going to take a few days,” he told the BBC. “I’m glad the news is now out in the open because I’ve been carrying this news as a burden on my own since March 16 when I was told.”
Van Straaten believes there is “no possibility whatsoever” of Entain changing its mind. He added: “We need to reflect on what the future holds and see if there’s anywhere else we can go, but I don’t hold out much hope.”
The news is another blow to the SGB Premiership after Peterborough Panthers this month confirmed they also expect to lose their East of England Showground home at the end of the season due to a housing development that is planned for the site. The potential loss of the Panthers and Wolves would reduce the league to five clubs.
Meanwhile, British Speedway has called on fans of the sport to back a petition to ‘Save Wolverhampton Speedway’ which has already collected in excess of 10,500 signatures as of 9am GMT today (Wednesday).
Rob Godfrey, chairman of British Speedway Promoters’ Ltd, said: “This stands out as a bizarre and ludicrous decision to end the tenancy of a well-supported, successful, viable club which has a great history in speedway dating back nearly 100 years.
“We don’t want to see any club close, and we don’t intend to let this one go without a fight, especially when there appears to be no logical reason for the decision. We will be forming an Action Group over the coming days and we are fully supportive of Chris and his colleagues as they look to save the club.
“I’d urge people to sign the online petition and I’m sure that the public opinion on this matter will be very clear. We are looking to grow the sport and we intend to fight tooth and nail on this issue, both for the future of Wolverhampton and for all of our clubs.”