OWNER Matt Ford revealed Pirates would be applying for second-tier speedway next season but insisted: “I don’t feel it’s a move backwards.”

The Pirates chief was speaking after it was confirmed the Wimborne Road outfit were looking to drop from the SGB Premiership to the Championship in 2020.

A move is subject to ratification at next month’s British Speedway Promoters’ Association AGM.

Should the switch be completed, it would be the first time since 1990 Pirates have competed in the second tier.

The decision comes following a fans’ survey issued on Pirates’ website over the weekend.

Seven teams competed in the SGB Premiership this season, compared to 11 in the Championship.

Ford told the Daily Echo: “The club will make application to join the Championship, it won’t be sanctioned one way or the other until the AGM in Coventry on November 13-15.

“I don’t feel it’s a move backwards. I feel it’s a move sideways to regroup and look at things in the future.

“Obviously we had a survey where we asked the fans of Poole Speedway what they were looking for during the course of next season, if they would prefer to have varied opposition or if they were comfortable to remain in a smaller league like we have been in the recent past.

"The vote was strongly of the opinion that people would have preferred to see more varied opposition and to see new clubs.

“It was a tremendous response from the Pirates fans, who were very positive about making the move to the Championship.

“We felt that would be the case, we felt people were looking for something different and also the chance to return back to our established, historic race day of Wednesdays.”

Pirates this season suffered a significant financial hit, after 2019 main sponsor No1 Carpet Cleaning Limited went into liquidation.

Ford told the Daily Echo it had been the “worst” year financially for the Dorset club since he had been involved.

Since he purchased the club in 1998, Poole have sealed eight top-flight titles and become the most successful team in the sport’s modern era.

Asked what the decision to switch leagues meant to him personally, the promoter said: “All I want is for speedway to be fun and exciting and for the club to be able to stand on its own two feet financially, that’s the main issue.

“Winning trophies is a wonderful thing and we have won more than anybody else in the sport.

“But at this moment in time, it has to be that we make sure that we are on a sound footing and the move is made on behalf of what potentially our feelings are and certainly the feelings of the people that come along to watch us.

“I feel it’s a move sideways to give people more of what they are looking for, with a varied opposition and still seeing approximately 70 per cent of the riders they got to see before.”

He added: “These things have happened to the club before of course.

“In the mid-80s under (Peter) Ansell and (Mervyn) Stewkesbury they became a ‘National League’ club – which was the equivalent to the Championship now.

“It was actually the most successful period in terms of crowds the club has had since the heyday of it’s opening.

“Those crowds were in the region of three times what I am currently getting.”

And the Poole boss is urging the Wimborne Road faithful to get behind the club in their new direction.

“It’s an exciting time for people,” he said. “They are going to see a different Pirate team and some people believe that to be the right move.

“Let’s hope we have some success, that we are competitive and we can have a more regular race night rather than riding just once every two or three weeks.”