Elite League has no future -Berry

SPEEDWAY: John Berry has backed the decision of Ipswich Witches to move down to the Premier League in 2011.

He says that he sees no future for the Elite League.

Berry now lives in Perth, Western Australia but still takes a keen interest in the goings on at Foxhall Stadium having been Witches promoter from 1969 until the mid-eighties overseeing most of the glory years of the shale sport in Suffolk.

He cannot see a successful Elite League while it is linked with the Grand Prix series and calls for British clubs to disassociate themselves from the world championship.

In his usual hard-hitting no holds barred manner, Berry backs current promoter John Louis and his son Chris, who have made the move after finishing bottom of the Elite League this year and struggling to make ends meet financially.

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“The Elite League is teetering on the edge,” said Berry.

“It has been so eroded by the demands of the Grand Prix that it is no longer workable.

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“Top stars appear to have little interest in their teams, other than to collect their inflated returns, the fixture list has become a total disaster as the clubs try to work around the ever increasing FIM event dates and the fans don’t know from match to match who will be representing their team, and if they will be in the mood to race.”

Berry sees no gain from the Sky Sports TV sponsorship that reportedly adds around �70,000 to each Elite League club’s annual income.

“They are hanging on to the TV deal as if it was a lifeline.

“I see it more as an albatross.

“The extra revenue gets swallowed up in extra costs and loss of turnstile income.

“Losing the TV arrangement will not be such a bad thing for the Ipswich promotion and supporters alike.

“Until the British Speedway Promoters’ Association cuts loose from the Grand Prix and re-emerges as an independent body - with collective determination to improve the product - the top flight will not be able to operate on a profitable basis.

“It will remain wholly dependent on being propped up by ‘sugar daddies’ that bolster their egos with handouts.”

Berry feels that long suffering Witches fans will gain pleasure from their favourites riding in the Premier League.

“I don’t think Ipswich Speedway had a great deal of choice in which direction they moved,” added Berry.

“Hopefully the supporters will benefit from a continuity of fixtures, a settled team personnel and maybe closer and more exciting racing.

“Certainly the lower league should also bring a greater degree of fun.

“Without a sugar daddy the Witches were never going to be able to put together a championship-winning team in the Elite League.

“In fact, they were more likely to remain strugglers.

“A drop to the lower league will at least give them a chance to be in the mix with other teams.”

Berry can see Ipswich going back in the top flight at some stage adding: “Even if it’s only a short-term situation until the Elite League comes out of its Alice-in-Wonderland trance and decides to make radical changes, I see the Witches decision as a no-brainer.”

After sharing promotion duties with Chris Shears for a while, Berry briefly acted as speedway’s overlord working for the Speedway Control Board before ‘retiring’ from the sport and moving out to sunnier climes.

Shears sold out to a consortium that included Dave Pavitt, John Louis and Mike Western and in their first two years at Foxhall they ran in the ‘second division’ before moving back up to the top flight in 1991 where the Witches have been ever since.

Louis has been sole promoter for a decade now with increasing help from his son once Chris’ riding career was ended prematurely by injury.

Both have given wonderful service to their home town club – John since 1969 and Chris since 1989.

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