A TOTAL of 624 days will have passed when Pirates finally get on track in a competitive home meeting once again on Wednesday.

Poole’s most recent home clash came against Ipswich Witches in the SGB Premiership semi-final on September 25, 2019.

All life has had to adapt since then due to COVID-19 – and it is no different for those in attendance at a maximum capacity of 1,226 back at Pirates’ headquarters this week.

There will be no congregating in the pits beforehand, fans will be basically placed in viewing areas to take in the meeting and face masks will have to be worn at all times unless exempt.

But at a time where 12 months ago, people were not sure when speedway would come back to Britain - at last, live action is set to be back at Wimborne Road.

So how will it all work for supporters ahead of the tapes flying up against Berwick Bandits in the SGB Championship?

Speaking exclusively to the Daily Echo from his office at Wimborne Road, Danny Ford explains all.

Pirates promoter Danny Ford at Wimborne Road (Picture: Dan Rose)


“We hope it all goes smoothly,” he said. “Everyone would have pre-booked their tickets. They will have a ticket ready either printed off or on their smartphones to be scanned when they arrive at the gate, with facemasks on at all times.

“Gates will open half an hour earlier to allow people to come in in a slow trickle, rather than a big queue.

“There shouldn’t be any reason for queues. Everyone has their reserved seats or viewing positions. They will come up to the gates, get their tickets scanned and be temperature tested on arrival.

“They will then be guided by stewards to where their seat or standing position is. That will be their viewing position for the duration.

“People can’t then go to another viewing position or walk around the stadium freely, unfortunately. There will be no catering or bar facilities but there will obviously be toilet facilities scattered around the stadium in each of the designated zones.


“It’s heavily restricted but we are just following the rules. It’s going to be very strange but we are doing everything we can to make it a COVID safe environment, while hopefully trying to get as many people through those turnstiles as possible.

“Myself, I am not allowed free movement around the stadium. I am not allowed to go and see riders in the pits during the meeting. All of the staff, everyone has to accept the restrictions.

“Hopefully after June 21, it can get easier and we will make the relevant changes from there.”

Pirates initially put tickets on sale for groups of six only – a move which was of course not met too kindly by those who have gone alone for years to watch Poole compete.

A general view of Poole Stadium, Wimborne Road. Home of the Poole Pirates (Picture: Dan Rose)


But promoter Ford explained why that decision was taken, in a bid to maximise restricted capacity.

He said: “The reason we have done that is because we are run off a maximum capacity of 1,226.

“That sounds great but, in reality, for every individual or group of less than six, they are almost treated as a group of six with regards to COVID regulations.

“The areas on the bends are broken down into sections, little plots in a way. That plot can either hold six people or one person. We can’t have a mix of people in there.

“We are really restricted in what we can do. That’s why we offered it to groups of six initially, so we could get as many people in as we could.

“We don’t want to have to turn anyone away, we want as many people to come and see speedway as we can.

“But if we were to have opened up to just individuals originally, we could have topped out at 400 capacity, which just isn’t achievable for us.

A general view of Poole Stadium, Wimborne Road. Home of the Poole Pirates (Picture: Dan Rose)


“That’s why we did it the way we did. It was a little unorthodox, we know a lot of our supporters had been frustrated by it but hopefully that offers a little bit of explanation as to why we’ve done it.

“The main stand is usually 1,150 capacity – but the absolute maximum we could have in there at present, with everyone being in groups of six, would be 550.

“We are already down to around 450 as a maximum we could fit in there.”

A general view of Poole Stadium, Wimborne Road. Home of the Poole Pirates (Picture: Dan Rose)


But it is not just supporters who will be restricted from a normal race night experience, Ford also revealed how riders had to adapt to keep themselves safe.

“Supporters are not the only ones to make sacrifices – everyone is going to have to go through these restrictions,” the promoter said.

“There will be no changing facilities for riders. They will each have to get changed in their vans, which isn’t going to be an ideal situation.

Pirates promoter Danny Ford at Wimborne Road (Picture: Dan Rose)


“There will be staggered arrival times for home and away teams. We are not going to have the pits open before the meeting, so season-ticket holders are not going to be able to go in there and interact with the riders, unfortunately.

“Each rider is only allowed one mechanic with no guests with them. Every home and away team rider will have to send in a negative lateral flow test within 48 hours before the event. I have already made Berwick aware of this.

“Every rider will be temperature tested when coming in and we will have all their details of mechanics, so we can keep on top of things in terms of track and trace.

“It’s going to be an interesting environment. It will be quiet over there in the pits but hopefully that allows us to keep on top of things.”

For those unable to be in attendance at Wimborne Road, Pirates have also innovated with a live online stream service, set to be available to order.

Pirates promoter Danny Ford at Wimborne Road (Picture: Dan Rose)


Oakdale resident Ford added: “We are bringing in a production company to produce a live stream with two camera angles and one commentator. It should be to a pretty high level.

“It will be available through our website and hopefully in the next couple of days we can get it set up for people to start booking tickets on there for that.

“It’s something we’ve never done before. Because we knew we were going to be under restrictions in terms of capacity, it was something we wanted to do to make sure we were being fair to supporters who will miss out on tickets.

“If it’s as successful as I hope it will be, there is no reason why we might not continue it to be honest. I’m not saying we will do it for every meeting of the season but we might see it more than once this year.”

It will be different for those on track and watching at home but the main thing is, after 20 months away, speedway is finally set to return to its Dorset home.