Speedway fans pledge to band together to save club

Eastbourne Lifestyle Eagles Speedway Team. March 16th 2013 E12062P'Bob Dugard. ENGSUS00220130318101818
Eastbourne Lifestyle Eagles Speedway Team. March 16th 2013 E12062P'Bob Dugard. ENGSUS00220130318101818

Eastbourne Eagles’ fans say they will form a consortium to save the town’s speedway club.

The club pulled off an unpredicted and impressive victory over top of the table Kings Lynn on Saturday at the Arlington Stadium in front of a bigger than expected crowd, where Eagles fans turned out in force to show their support for the club, which is facing closure at the end of the season unless a new backer is found.

The Dugard family is currently losing around £200,000 a year in keeping Eastbourne Eagles afloat. Sympathetic fans at Saturday’s meeting said it was time for the club’s supporters to take action.

John Firth,68, from Peacehaven said,”Bob Dugard and the rest of his family have put so much effort and money into keeping the Eagles going. We all know what a fantastic job Mr Dugard and his family have done for the Eagles. I’ve been coming here for more than 50 years and there is no way we, the fans, are going to watch this great speedway club go to the wall.”

Peter Spencer, 59, from Hailsham said, ”There are enough fans to dig deep into their pockets and try and come up with a financial solution of our own. The Dugards have made the Eastbourne Eagles what it is today - a proud, family-run speedway club with great people around, a great atmosphere and great fans. A consortium is not beyond the realms of possibility and I know we are all just as concerned as each other in wanting to stop this great club from going belly up. Me and thousands of other fans have so many great memories of coming to watch the Eagles.

“The Arlington is not just a stadium. It’s part of the fabric of our town so we all have to try and save the club - and that means us, the fans,too.”

Promoter Bob Dugard, in an exclusive interview for the Eastbourne Gazette, said “everything that could be done would be done” in order to find a new backer. But he admitted at the moment the chances were “slim.” Some Eagles fans have blamed a lack of “home grown British” riders as the cause for the club’s financial problems.

“Most top riders are foreign. That’s all well and good and there is no doubt they are great riders,” added Mr Firth. “But they demand more money and this is the problem.”

Bob and his brother Eric Dugard both own Arlington Stadium. It was revealed by the Herald that the Dugards launched ambitious plans 15 years ago to develop the site around the stadium but were “flatly rejected” by Wealden District Council. Eastbourne Eagles’ next home fixture is on July 19 against Poole Pirates.

• See sport on page 38 for a full speedway match report.