POOLE Pirates boss Neil Middleditch has backed calls for a review of the Elite League’s controversial tactical ride rules following scathing criticism from one of speedway’s top brass.
Vice-chairman of the British Speedway Promoters Association (BSPA) Jon Cook, a long-time critic of the lifeline, last week launched his verbal tirade after Kings Lynn had overturned an 11-point advantage to beat his club, Lakeside, on Monday.
The regulation allows a nominated rider to score double points when their side is trailing by 10 points or more, and again if they are 12 points in arrears, between heats five and 12 in top flight competition.
“We should have the courage to drop this (tactical) rule, which is hated by the majority of fans and lacks any credibility in sport,” said Cook. “It’s a pantomime rule fit only for 1970s game shows.”
Wimborne Road manager Middleditch could only watch in disbelief as Pirates suffered a similar fate against Coventry Bees on Wednesday, finishing on the end of a 48-47 reverse having led by 12 points with five heats to go.
But while Poole’s man in the pits agreed with Cook’s sentiments, his ire over the last-ditch setback was directed at referee Christina Turnbull who halted the 15th and final race after injury victim Darcy Ward came off his bike.
Asked for his views on tactical rides, Middleditch told the Daily Echo: “I have always thought it should be down to racing on the track and I was never a big fan of the rule when it came in.
“I can understand why people like it because it because it brings matches back to life when it looks like they’re all over, but on the track it certainly does affect results.
“Take nothing away from Coventry, they gated very well but the eight-one really killed us and was the critical point of the match. They came back very well, never gave up and deserved credit for their result.
“There are certainly no sour grapes on our part, I just think, in general, that those against the ruling have a fair point. Jon (Cook) is quite a high-profile figure and is not afraid to make his feelings known.
“The rules are like Marmite – you either love them or hate them – but I think they are here to stay and whatever the future holds, we will just have to work with what we are given.”
On the snap decision to re-run the final and decisive heat following fourth-placed Ward’s tumble, Middleditch added: “I was peeved when the referee immediately hit the red lights.
Darcy was not hurt and was going to get up, the other riders hadn’t got 50 metres before it was stopped.
“Shamek was out in front and could have won us the meeting. Darcy should have been given the chance to get up and clear the track and I felt it was a bad decision.”