HomeSportEastbourne Eagles supporters turn out in force for Speedway comeback

Eastbourne Eagles supporters turn out in force for Speedway comeback

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EASTBOURNE Speedway campaigners have hailed a huge turn-out of supporters for the club’s first match in three years.

They say that the 365 Eagles followers who travelled to Iwade for Sunday’s challenge match with Kent Kings proves there is major public backing for a revival of the sport in Sussex.

The Save Eastbourne Speedway group, frustrated in their bid for return to the club’s historic Arlington home, believe a “loud and clear” message has been sent to the doubters.

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Campaign co-leader Michael Gray said: “What an afternoon, we are absolutely thrilled, a bit emotional to be honest. We have always had the faith but to see so many Eagles supporters here, well, it speaks for itself.

“It is not an easy trip to Iwade. It shows a level of dedication. And our supporters have come out in numbers we scarcely dreamed of.

“It’s loud and clear, isn’t it? Anyone who thinks people don’t want to know about speedway, or the Eagles, need to look at what has happened today. It is an incredible public show of feeling for the Eagles.”

Photo: Niall Strudwick

Kent officials were asked to count the precise number of Eagles supporters as they entered the stadium. The figure comprised about half the total attendance at the north Kent circuit.

Gray spent much of the match moving among the travelling fans to gauge their mood. He said: “It came up over and over again. What is the situation about Arlington? Will we get a chance to prove that speedway can be a viable proposition there?”

The club, under a different promotion, collapsed mid-season in 2021 leaving extensive debts. The Dugard family, who own Arlington, have rebuffed approaches from Save Eastbourne Speedway representatives, and prospects of a return to the club’s long-standing base appear bleak.

That is not deterring the campaigners, who want to build on the impetus of Sunday. Campaign co-leader David Graveling added: “This was way beyond our expectations. The message is clear. After today, how can we not fight on?”

A last-heat 47-43 defeat by their old rivals was a mere side issue with Grayling quick to praise his team, who included local riders Vinnie Foord and Nick Laurence. “All six of them were a pleasure to work with, rode their hearts out and did our club proud,” he said.

Gray and Graveling must now decide on whether to enter an Eagles team into the new National Amateur League, after Crayford’s weekend withdrawal left a vacancy. The  league, based entirely at Iwade, and expected to have four teams, already includes a side representing Hastings Saxons.

“We must consider carefully whether this is the right option for an Eastbourne Eagles side to take,” said Graveling.

The Eagles will promote their own meeting at Iwade on September 22, in a format yet to be decided, and send a squad to the Kyle Newman four-team tournament testimonial at Poole on an as yet unconfirmed date.

They have also been handed an invitation from Kent for a rematch at Iwade later this year and are planning a major summer social event for supporters.

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