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How Brexit could effect British Speedway

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It was nearly three weeks ago that Great Britain voted to leave the European Union. As expected so far, not a lot has changed, and it appears it could take a few years for changes to be implemented.

But Leicester Lions owner, David Hemsley, believes that the decision made by the UK could have a negative effect on British Speedway.

The majority of riders in British Speedway often ride for multiple European clubs, with some featuring for four teams on the continent, and given the high volume of European riders currently in England’s top tier of the sport, Helmsley believes it could lead to limited movement in the future for riders.

“The reality is that at the moment, British speedway simply can’t produce enough local British talent,” he said.

“It will be a significant challenge to the sport. It’s something I hope, one way or another, might get headed off.”

Leicester Lions, who have been in the Elite League since 2014, currently have four of their seven riders from European countries, in addition to Australian, Aaron Summers, too.

“We’ve employed Australians, New Zealanders, Americans in the past so we’ve had to go through the process [of applying for the right to work in the UK] with various riders,” Hemsley told BBC Radio Leicester.

“The thought of having to do that for the vast majority of the team fills me with horror. It is very time consuming, it’s unwieldy and you feel like your own destiny is out of your control.”

In other sports, and football in particular, players currently with an EU passport are currently free to feature in the UK, whilst those from outside must meet Home Office criteria.

Analysis carried out by the BBC in March revealed 332 football players in the top two divisions of England and Scotland would fail to meet the current standards for working in the UK.

“I hope the UK Border Agency will be used to a massive increase in workload because I am sure that’s what they are going to get,” Hemsley continued.

“One thing football doesn’t do is that their footballers aren’t playing for Inter Milan and Barcelona as well as Leicester City which our guys are.”

Lions skipper, Nicolai Klindt, currently rides for Scunthorpe Scorpions, Atlas Wroclaw in Poland, Swedish side Elit Vetlanda and Danish team Outrup.

“I was a bit scared about it when I first heard about it because with the visas and the work permit, even though I’m only from Denmark, I’m going to get all that now,” he said.

“What I’ve heard is that it’s going to take at least two years before everything is sorted and in that case I could get a British passport because I’ve lived over here for that long.

“Personally it’s not going to be a problem, but for other clubs just look at Swindon, they’ve got five Australians and they’ve got to sort out five visas and if that’s the case for every single club then it’s going to be a massive issue.”

It could be worse for lower league clubs too. Workington Comets owner, Laura Morgan, knows all too well about the difficulties of securing visas for riders. Last season, Australian rider, Mason Campton, was ruled out following strict new criteria.

Morgan is worried that following the decision to leave, Comets’ riders, including Danish trio Kenneth Hansen, Rasmus Jensen and Claus Vissing, could be fearing for their future in England.

She believes the financial strain it would put on Premier and National League sides could be unbearable, relying on an already scarce, young crop of British talent.

“This year we would potentially have needed five visas and it’s not just the cost, you can’t cope with that number,” Morgan said.

 “At the moment they’re protecting EU riders but now they’re going to be protecting British riders and we just don’t have enough to make the league work.

“It could be another nail in the coffin for British speedway and because of my personal experiences with Mason it makes me very worried.”

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On the flip side, Poole Pirates promoter, Matt Ford, believes that British Speedway is in a good position to deal with the decision.

The Dorset team currently employ three of their 20 riders from countries in the EU, but Ford believes that previous incidents with borders chiefs means that future incidents shouldn’t be an issue.

“Our sport has been through the heartache of riders missing out on competing here due to work permit issues.

“Having worked so much with the relevant departments for employment and immigration, I believe we are all set up to get things right.

“There were one or two issues a couple of years ago where riders left the country without getting their work permits in place and then had to take a 12-month sabbatical before being allowed to come back.

“But now we know about those pitfalls and if it comes to it, we can make sure that doesn’t happen. I’m confident we will be okay.”

Ford later added; “Even when we do sanction any exit, we would have two years from that point to start making things work. It will be some time before it affects speedway and how we bring emerging talent to Britain.”

The decision will also effect young, British riders looking to ply their trade and boost their experiences on the continent, something Ford also mentioned.

“This also affects British guys when they’re going abroad as well. Going out to Poland plays a big part in pushing the careers of young Brits on to the next level.

“It is important that they can get that track time out there but I don’t see this as a stumbling block for the sport at all. Everything is achievable.”

British speedway will hope that the effected changes can boost the influx of home grown talent, but a vast improvement on the British league’s is something that will need looking at if young riders are unable to compete abroad. As for the club’s, they may need to rely on riders from elsewhere, like the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

It’s not yet known what the outcome for EU riders will be with regards to riding in England, but Helmsley and Morgan have already expressed his concerns on the matter.

Brexit British Speedway EU Leicester Lions Workington Comets

About Dale Ventham

Dale Ventham is an editor at The Sports Lowdown. He writes on the lower leagues of English football and Speedway in particular.

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