Charity runner ‘disappointed’ by speedway club’s response

Jeff Abelll, Eastbourne, who wants to raise cash for injured speedway drivers.
Jeff Abelll, Eastbourne, who wants to raise cash for injured speedway drivers.

A SPEEDWAY fan who is trying to raise cash for a charity that helps injured riders says he is going to give Arlington a wide berth after the Eastbourne Eagles told him he could not ask for sponsorship at his local track.

Jeff Abell, who has been going to watch the Eagles with his dad since the age of just four, was inspired to start fundraising by the death of Lee Richardson – a former Eastbourne rider who died tragically after a crash during a race in Poland earlier this year.

The 18-year-old plans to running in a string of races over the coming year, including the Brighton Marathon, and wanted to do so in an Eagles shirt. However, he claims that he was told by the club he would have to buy a shirt if he wanted to do that, rather than have one lent or given to him by the club and that under no circumstances would he be allowed to collect sponsorship before or during an Eagles home meet.

A disappointed Jeff said, “I respect the sport a lot and have always followed the Eagles. I have been going to Arlington for 14 years and, after what happened to Lee Richardson, I wanted to raise money for the riders’ benevolent fund.

“I am really disappointed by the club’s response. I have spoken to all the riders and a lot of them are interested but the club say they think the fans might feel embarrassed.”

His dad Ken, another lifelong speedway fan, was equally annoyed. He said, “Here you have a young lad who is willing to run races to raise money for injured speedway riders, and the local speedway team does not want anything to do with it.

“We think it is disgusting that a local sports team have shunned a young local lad that wants to help and promote their sport and the riders injured in their sport.”

A spokesman for Eastbourne Eagles said it was not as simple as the club not wanting to support fundraising fans and that the club was already holding a collection night for the same charity.

Chris Macdonald explained, “We would be pleased to recognise his efforts in a match-day programme with a story and a photograph. At no stage have we said or inferred that an Eagles’ replica shirt had to be purchased.

“However, we are unable to authorise this application to canvass personal sponsorship during one our meetings for a number of reasons.

“We deliberately limit the number of collections/sponsorship opportunities within the stadium.

“At our nine matches this year there have been four collections/events, with the obligatory British Speedway Promoters’ Association-mandated collection for injured riders, known as the BEN Fund, still to come during August.

“This is more than our usual number of collections in a season. In the case of the BEN fund, any unofficial fundraising within the stadium for the same charity may well lead to confusion.

“It would be unfair on our spectators for us to authorise any further collections beyond the ones we are allowing as this may cause some supporters, especially the more elderly, embarrassment.”

Jeff however, remained unconvinced. “I actually think most people would be only too happy to contribute.

“I am going to a race with some friends to celebrate my birthday but after that I don’t think I will be going to watch the Eagles after the way I have been treated,”