Chris Louis: Witches set for team changes. And it's a May start as British Speedway turns to youth

Chris Louis hopes Ipswich Witches will take to the track in 2020. Picture: Steve Waller www.st

Chris Louis: Excited about the new season and the emphasis on youth - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Witches promoter Chris Louis admits there will have to be changes to his 2021 line-up ahead of the new season after the points limit for Premiership teams was dropped.

The 2021 Premiership campaign is set to start on Monday, May 3. The Championship two days earlier, with Louis admitting the sport is trying to put everything in place to start on those May dates, 'whatever the circumstances.'

There will be no league speedway for Ipswich Witches in 2020. Picture: Steve Gardiner

Ipswich Witches - set for May start - Credit: Archant

British Speedway promoters have launched a new five-year plan with the focus on the talented crop of British youngsters in both professional leagues and a 'rising stars' programme.

From this year onwards, every Premiership and Championship club will include one of the ‘rising stars’ in their team with the aim of encouraging progression for these youngsters at a faster rate.

Every ‘rising star’ will be given a grading and Premiership clubs, like Ipswich, will build their teams up to a combined average of 35.5 for six riders plus a British youngster graded four and below.

"Once we get through this development year, looking ahead it's a great boost for young riders in this country," Louis said.

But it will mean changes for a Witches team Louis had pencilled in for this season. It was hoped to be the 2020 one, minus Nico Covatti. Although Ipswich will be very much hoping they can keep hold of young Drew Kemp, as their 'rising star.'

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"We wanted to keep the same team for this year as we had ready for 2020," Louis said.

"But it will be different now - although not by much.

Nico Covatti, back in Italy and winning titles again. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.

Staying in Italy. Nico Covatti won't be riding for the Witches in 2021 - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

"Nico Covatti had already said he will not be coming back to England this year. But with the new rule and the 'rising star' programme, with lower points limit, we have to make a change.

We are committed to our 2020 team as far as we can be within the new rules."

Witches asset Drew Kemp. PICTURE STEVE WALLER www.stephenwaller.com

Drew Kemp - a Witch in 2021 hopefully for fans - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Louis has hailed the 'rising star' programme and says British Speedway has had to move more quickly than it had planned to, after authorities in Poland told their Ekstraliga riders they can only ride in one other country, aside from Poland.

It has already seen the likes of Robert Lambert and Rohan Tungate, who would likely have ridden in Britain in 2021, withdraw from the British League.

"What Poland have done since Covid has forced us to move quicker," Louis added.

The new British Champion, Robert Lambert. Photo: IAN BURT

No British League racing for Robert Lambert in 2021 - Credit: Archant

"In that respect I'm pleased, but it's forced our hand and now we are doing the right things. As far as I'm concerned the sport was at its strongest when teams were crammed with local riders."

"Ipswich was probably one of the best examples in the 70s and 80. Fans love supporting local riders."

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There will be 10 home and 10 away fixtures in Ipswich's 2021 Premiership season, with the top four of six reaching the play-offs. There is also a Premiership Tour individual series hoping to be held, with one round at each of the six tracks.

Eurosport will be screening live fixtures from the Premiership - Louis delighted with them coming on board.

"Eurosport have been very supportive. They are excited that they are at the beginning of a new era for British Speedway, with a genuine youth programme that is going to evolve next year particularly."

Fixture lists will likely be out in the next week or so.

Ipswich Witches v Sheffield Tigers
Foxhall Stadium
PICTURE STEVE WALLER 22.4.11
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It's a May start for speedway, 'whatever the circumstances', says Chris Louis - Credit: Archant

"We are trying to put everything in place to ensure we can from May, whatever the circumstances," Louis said. "As a sport we expect to be able to run in stadia from May."

Meanwhile, Plymouth have expressed an interest in joining the Championship with discussions ongoing to make it a 12-team league plus a Knockout Cup competition.

Swindon and Somerset, who have pulled out of the leagues this year, are expected to be welcomed back in 2022.

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