PIRATES boss Neil Middleditch joined the plethora of people outraged at Gary Havelock’s farewell meeting being pushed to one side and branded the situation “disgraceful”.
Pirates promoter Matt Ford, who is currently out of the UK, arranged the special meeting last year after the 1992 world champion’s 30-year shale sport career was ended by injury.
Those plans were yesterday thrown into turmoil when the British Speedway Promoters Association (BSPA) announced the ELRC had been moved at the request of broadcasters Sky with fuming fans taking to Twitter, calling for riders to boycott the season's curtain-raiser.
And while former Great Britain team manager Middleditch distanced himself from those suggestions, he pulled no punches in his assessment of the situation.
“It is a proper smack in the face for Havvy and I think it is awful,” said Middleditch. “I have been friends with Gary for a long time and feel quite strongly about this.
“Nobody had more pride in riding for his country and he is one of the few world champions we have produced in England.
“He was forced to retire through a serious injury and from that day everyone wanted a big a farewell to show their admiration and respect.
“It is disgraceful. He has been planning this for the past couple of years and a lot of people wanted to thank him for the sacrifices he made for speedway.
“They (the BSPA) knew very well when the date was and should have looked at it seriously and done the proper thing.
“Havvy deserves his day and the whole situation is really wrong. The solution is easy – just change the date (of the ELRC).”
Meanwhile, BSPA vice-chairman Jon Cook said all scheduling matters were dealt with by Go Speed International and that his organisation had not been party to the discussions over the date change.
Cook continued: “It is just one of those unavoidable situations when you are in a sport with such a long-standing relationships with its broadcasters.
“As harsh it sounds, the established, official events do take priority over non-official events and that’s the way speedway has always operated.
“It’s not the finest hour for anyone concerned with the exception of Gary who is the innocent victim of us having to move things round to, quite rightly, give us the launch to the British season that we require.”
Go Speed managing director Terry Russell was unavailable for comment when the Daily Echo went to press, while Sky politely declined to comment.