Mildenhall Fen Tigers end fears over future by confirming they will ride in the 2023 National Development League
Mildenhall Fen Tigers joint owner Lee Chipchase hopes the club can push forward both on and off the track after it was announced the team will be returning to the tapes for the 2023 speedway season.
The future of the West Row-based outfit was plunged into doubt after club officials decided not to commit their place in speedway’s third tier for the upcoming campaign following a preliminary meeting between National Development League (NDL) sides in November.
Citing rising costs combined with a fall in crowd numbers behind their initial decision, the club revealed they needed to find an extra £15,000 before this month’s extended deadline to have any chance of being part of this year’s NDL set-up.
However, after securing the money required following a recent fund-raising campaign – together with two private sponsors coming forward – club officials announced on Tuesday that they would be part of the 2023 NDL campaign having reached an agreement with Mildenhall Stadium owner Deane Wood.
Chipchase said: “We are going back to the tapes this season which means a massive amount to us. We were keen to still run the speedway and having secured the money we needed we just had to come to an arrangement with the owner.
“We have come to that agreement and now we have just got to sort the dates out for the fixtures and see what dates are available.
“The club is one of the biggest sports teams in the area and we didn’t want to be the ones to close it down but we thought it was all over.
“Hopefully we can now push on and get more people back through the gate.
“If we can get an extra 80 to 100 people through the gate it will self fund itself.
“We have really got to try and get new people through the door and old supporters back.”
Following the news supporters of the club had been hoping to hear, Chipchase was quick to thank the efforts by several fans for their hard work behind the scenes in helping to secure the future of the Fen Tigers.
He said: “I want to say a massive thank you to Jeremy and Emma Reader who have done a marvellous job raising over a third of the money needed through a GoFundMe campaign for the Fen Tigers to continue in 2023.
“It has been absolutely amazing what they have done as it was getting pretty gloomy at the end of 2022
“Seeing the efforts of Jeremy and Emma, along with Carol and Tim Darling, who have also been a big help, we thought we have got to try to get this going as it shows just how much these people care about the club.”
With the club confirming their place in this year’s NDL, the process of building a team will now begin.
However, Chipchase has revealed that discussions have already been held with a number of riders about representing the Fen Tigers in 2023.
He said: “I know people will say a lot of the good riders have gone, but as it stands there are only six other teams in the league so there are still a lot of good riders out there.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out which riders have not been picked up. We have been in contact with a few riders and those who we have been talking to we would be more than happy to go to the tapes with.
“In the chats that we have had there are a couple of crowd favourites that are included in a draft team we have put together and if we can get them at Mildenhall then there will be some exciting racing for sure.
“We always want to have seven riders that can ride at Mildenhall and that will win all our home meetings. Our success rate since we have taken over has been good. We have won the league, been second in it and we always compete.
“We wouldn’t put a team out just to make the numbers up. That is what we have always tried to achieve.
“We have tried to go in and win the league and we will be doing our best to try and do that again this year.”