SWEDISH GIANTS VETLANDA CLOSE

PAUL BURBIDGE

Nine-time Swedish champions Vetlanda have been declared bankrupt and will not line up in the 2022 Bauhaus Elitserien.

The club confirmed the news in a press release today, revealing it had amassed debts of over three million SEK (around £250,000) after suffering “large losses for several years.”

FIM Speedway Grand Prix star Pawel Przedpelski was due to race for Vetlanda in 2022, along with the likes of German ace Martin Smolinski, Polish star Piotr Pawlicki and former world No.4 Rune Holta.

The club recently appointed a new board, which hired a corporate lawyer to investigate their finances – resulting in their decision to file for bankruptcy, leaving eight teams in the Bauhaus Elitserien for this year.

Astrid Poker, chairman of Vetlanda, says starting the season under a cloud of financial uncertainty was not an option.

He said: “We have a responsibility both to sponsors, the league association and not least to the riders. By making the decision now, we give both the league association and the riders a sporting chance before the series starts.

“Had we chosen to try a little harder and not reached the finish line, we would instead have had to interrupt the season. Our hope is that sponsors, who have now chosen to sponsor the elite team, can imagine using the intended money to instead sponsor a team in the Allsvenskan League or in Division One.”

Poker hopes racing will be able to continue at a venue which staged the FIM GP Challenge as recently as 2016. He said: “We will now work to find a solution so that we can continue with speedway in Vetlanda, but catch our breath financially and instead build up the business.”

Elitserien chairman Mikael Holmstrand is frustrated by the club’s plight after admitting long-standing concerns over Vetlanda’s finances went unanswered.

He told the league’s official website: “It is incredibly sad for a long-established club like Vetlanda and for Swedish speedway in general. From the league’s side, we have for a long time asked Vetlanda questions about how the club is doing.

“Unfortunately, it now turns out the answers we received were not anchored in reality, and Vetlanda’s new board has been forced to make this necessary decision.

“Vetlanda has been asked many times what the plan for getting their finances right looks like. The clubs need each other and within ESS we have a close collaboration where clubs try to spread knowledge to avoid this type of event that the sport has unfortunately had to deal with several times before. We have always received answers that the situation is under control, and it is of course a great disappointment that these statements did not turn out to be true, even if we are not surprised.”

Holmstrand insists efforts will now begin to help Vetlanda find a way to return to the sport. He added: “From the ESS side, we are now working to deal with the practical issues that arise. At the same time, we are also behind Vetlanda’s new board, which has made a responsible decision, which should have been made a long time ago, in its work to restart the association’s operations and eventually be able to return. We need more clubs, not fewer and will assist Vetlanda in the ways we can.”

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