A damning report into the events that saw Manchester’s Speedway team, the Belle Vue Aces had their speedway licence over financial management issues has been presented to the City Council this morning.
The report to the Council’s Executive into the circumstances surrounding the £8m investment into the complex from the City Council accuses the owners of any absence of any commercial management competencies and in particular the withdrawal of £500,000 of private equity funding and the simultaneous replacement of cash with an investment of £600,000 from another source.
Back in 2013, the council agreed to the Belle Vue Sports Village project which would incorporate the National Speedway Stadium, a national centre for Basketball and new playing field.
The plan was incorporate a new stadium for the Belle Vue Aces, to have a more sustainable and viable business going forward, based on increasing regular attendances for Elite League meetings.
Business Plan forecasts were presented to the City Council in 2013 by the owners of the Belle Vue Group of Companies. These forecasts were based on the numbers of spectators for the Elite League meetings being circa 1,800 per fixture along with a significant contribution from World Championships and FIM meetings.
In addition, the move to a new Stadium and the switching of home race nights from Monday to a Friday / Saturday night, the removal of the rental payments to their previous Stadium owner, and the ability to retain food and beverage income, satisfied the Council that this enabled Belle Vue Aces to be profitable and to enable B V Arena Ltd to service the annual rent to the Council of £350,000.
Events came to a head at The Peter Craven Memorial Event on 19 March 2016, the first speedway event to be held at the new Stadium for which the City Council were informed by BV Arena Limited that circa 5,500 tickets were sold, a night which saw the meeting called off over the safety of the track.
The Council understands that on the 18th March 2016 the speedway track was signed off as fit for racing by the Speedway Control Board following testing of the track by speedway riders.
On the 19th March 2016 the Clerk of the Course declared the track fit for racing. Unfortunately immediately before the start of the event had to be abandoned. In a series of practice laps before the event the riders, including past and present world champions, determined that the track on Turns 3 and 4 was too soft and that it was unsafe to ride on.
The Council, says the report,is still unclear on what basis the track was declared fit for racing on the 18th and the 19th March and why the event was not cancelled earlier.
A range of remedial works were undertaken between 21st March and 7th April 2016 but these did not rectify the issues and it was identified that part of the track, the Turns 3 and 4, would need to be rebuilt.
However says the report, following site investigations it was evident that the materials used for the sub base on Turns 3 and 4 were different to those specified in the Building Contract and should not have been used as a replacement without an assessment on the impact of the Speedway track.
It has come to light that the owners of Belle Vue Group Companies were aware of the proposal to use alternative material. However, the Council were not made aware of this change of material and the express consent of the Council was not obtained.
The resulting work meant that several Elite and National league matches for Belle Vue Aces.
It is claimed that the loss of income from these postponed events put significant financial pressures on the Belle Vue Group of Companies which was compounded by the requirements of BV Arena Ltd to purchase services associated with the hosting of the 2016 Speedway World Cup at the end of July 2016.
The council stands to lose around £200,000 in bad debts following the collapse.
However out of darkness comets light.
The Aces will be running again in 2017 and according to the report “the work that will be undertaken with Belle Vue Speedway 2017 Ltd will be determine a reliable financial and operating base not only for the stadium but Belle Vue Aces Speedway team too,”
Businessmen Tony Rice and Robin Southwell bought the Aces franchise last month ensuring the team will compete in the new British Speedway Premiership.