MATT Ford has admitted it "almost came down to a flip of a coin" before choosing Bjarne Pedersen ahead of Jason Crump to lead Pirates next season.

In the end, Poole Castle Cover's chief felt Pedersen's "lower average and six-year loyalty" to the club gave him the edge.

So the Dane will captain Pirates in 2008, while Crump, bought for a club record £28,000 fee last winter, has been loaned out to Belle Vue for the campaign.

Ford was forced into making a straight choice between Pedersen and Crump after promoters voted to cull the team building points limit from 42.50 to 38.85 at their annual conference, which finished yesterday.

Crump's average is 10.30 and Pedersen's 9.05, with the Dane joining Chris Holder (5.05) and Karol Zabik (5.00) in Poole's 2008 line-up.

Speaking exclusively to the Echo last night, Ford said: "It is with deep regret that I almost had to flip a coin to decide which of our two outstanding heat leaders we would have to lose the services of in 2008.

"I'm sure that while six fans in a dozen will be happy with us keeping Bjarne, six fans will also feel disappointed.

"Jason came to us from Belle Vue on a full transfer at the beginning of 2007 and has become very popular both on the terraces and in the promotional team.

"Clearly when we paid a Poole club record fee we didn't dream we would be having to release him on loan so soon.

"While it is great news to be welcoming back Bjarne to lead the team as captain in 2008, I'm left feeling disconsolate and upset to see Jason head north.

"I know Jason loved his time at Poole and would certainly have been riding again for us this year should the points limit have remained the same.

"He came down just three weeks ago to speak to me and connected up with some sponsors, and obviously the intent was to negotiate with those sponsors for 2008.

"We had a meeting when I made it clear to him that if we have a 42-point limit you are back in our side. If it is 38 I can't see how I can fit a team around you.

"He accepted that decision, but he was just very concerned he wouldn't get a team place in British speedway down to the reduction in points limit and his high average.

"I want to make it abundantly clear that when I spoke to Jason, assurances were given to him that I would never insist on a transfer for Jason's services as it is crucial for the Elite League to retain his services (and other clubs might not have been able to afford to buy him outright).

"Jason was brought to lead Pirates over the next three or four years and I can categorically state would have done if it hadn't been for the severe reduction in the points limit.

"Because Bjarne has ridden for the club for six years, and shown nothing but loyalty to the club and its fans, we felt that loyalty had to be rewarded with a continued contract.

"We love to have Bjarne back in the Pirates fold, but on this occasion there is also a great degree of sadness to be letting the rider I believe will win the 2008 world title go out on loan.

"It finally came down to one of them having an average of 1.25 higher, and Bjarne's six years as a Poole rider.

"This is the toughest team building decision I have had to make going into the start of a season.

"It is very hard when you are playing with people's livelihoods and emotions, and having to make decisions you clearly don't want to have to make."