Ipswich Witches skipper Hawkins hoping for positive spin for riders like Adam Ellis over visa issues
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Witches skipper Ritchie Hawkins is hoping a positive spin can emerge from the current visa situation hitting the sport.
Non-EU riders have had their visas to race in Britain quashed – with the whole process of re-applying for them having to start again.
The new season begins in less than eight weeks.
The situation affects more than 20 riders, mainly from Australia, in both the Elite League and Premier League.
And while a few clubs are not hampered at all, the Witches are one of many that are, with Aussie Rohan Tungate and American Gino Manzares both currently awaiting to re-apply for their visas. The worry is the visas won’t be stamped until after the season has started.
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“It’s a bit crazy because we know Rohan and Gino will both get visas, because they qualify for them,” Hawkins said.
“But it’s a worry because you just don’t know if they will get them in time for the start of the season.
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“I know Chris Louis has arranged practice and press day and a few team-bonding days leading up to the first meeting and that will be great.
“But it won’t be quite the same if two of the guys aren’t there.”
However, Hawkins does think the visa situation could help British riders he feels are finding team places hard to come.
“In a sense the sport should come out of this in a better position,” Hawkins said.
“For instance riders like Adam Ellis, who is a great young English rider, can’t get a team place in the Premier League at the moment. But some team places are being taken by riders who probably won’t now be granted a visa.
“So, that will hopefully give Adam a team place which is right.
“I just hope it all gets sorted soon.”
Hawkins has been keeping busy throughout the winter – a married man now – including plenty of gym work and he is looking forward to the new season.
Meanwhile, Witches director of speedway Chris Louis has also weighed in with the feeling that sorting out the visa situation will be a good thing.
“Initially it is going to be a big problem, of course it is,” he said.
“But it has been a problem for a few years. I’m not saying who is to blame, I think it’s a bit on both sides to be honest.
“But after it is all sorted out everyone will know where they stand.”
And he told Witches fans the process to get Tungate and Manzares over to Foxhall had already started.
“Yes, the process has indeed started,” Louis added.
“And nothing is changing as regards the start of the season.”
While the Witches have two riders affected by visa issues, some clubs have three – some have none.
Seasons tickets at Foxhall saw a slight increase up on last season, Louis also added.