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End of an era as Cradley Heathens pull out of league racing

By Russell Youll | Cradley | Speedway | Published: | Last Updated:

Cradley Heathens have pulled out of league racing next season after long standing talks over stadium plans failed.

Cradley Heathens have been racing at Wolverhampton in recent years

Discussions over the structure of the 2020 National League will continue into December, but the club have confirmed they will not be at the tapes following the AGM.

Club director Chris Van Straaten represented the club and withdrew Heathens from participation in 2020.

Cradley Heathens had been racing Wolverhampton's Monmore Green track

He said: “Logistically it is not possible to stage more than one speedway meeting per week at Wolverhampton’s Monmore Green Stadium which Heathens used as their temporary base.

“The search for a new piece of land, which started back in 1995, has been unsuccessful with little or no encouragement going forward.

Dudley Wood Stadium was one of the world's most famous speedway venues when pictured here around the 1970s

“We would like to offer sincere thanks to the British Speedway Promoters’ Association for allowing the club to race for a decade without a home of their own.

"This is normally only allowed for a three-year period.

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“The club have set a new record for racing across 10 years without a permanent home track.

Billy Hamill and Peter Karlsson battle it out at Dudley Wood Stadium during the club's final season at the track in 1995. Picture: John Hipkiss

“However, with no prospect of a new site going forward despite the best efforts of club officials and supporters, there is no future at this moment.

“I can say as a team, including Gary Patchett and Nigel Pearson, we would not stand in the way of any future individual or group using the Heathens name should they be successful in finding suitable land.

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“In fact, we would offer any help possible with advice on how to run a professional speedway club in these challenging times.

Cradley Heathens were one of speedway's best-known clubs racing at Dudley Wood

“We have been proud custodians of this wonderful club, but readily acknowledge we have failed in the ultimate aim of a new track in the area.”

The Heathens had also raced at Birmingham Brummie's Perry Barr Stadium after the club was revived in 2010 after a 14-year absence.

The speedway club has previously raced at Dudley Wood Stadium before it was forced to close in 1995.

After a long-running dispute and public planning inquiry the stadium was eventually cleared and redeveloped for homes.

Dudley Wood Stadium was left derelict before it was redeveloped for housing

Supporters had worked to find alternative sites with both Dudley and Sandwell councils over the years to no avail.

Broadcaster and former Heathens chairman Nigel Pearson added: ""The door is open for any individual, business or supporters organisation to carry the famous Cradley Heathens name into a new home.

"There will be no barriers from us, I know I can speak for Chris Van Straaten and Gary Patchett when saying we would offer any help and advice people may need on the subject of running a professional speedway club in these challenging times.

"Like every Cradley fan, I'd love to see the team back on track on a site back towards the Cradley area. Just because we failed, it doesn't mean something will crop up for somebody else and we would be delighted if that happened.

The derelict Dudley Wood Stadium after speedway ceased at the track

"Personally I don't think it will happen, I noticed a piece in the Express & Star this week saying twice as many houses have been built in the West Midlands last year compared to the start of the decade. That says it all. I hope I'm wrong."

Club officials would like to thank the many riders who have represented the club down the last 10 years, as well as the brilliant fans, sponsors, volunteers and staff at both Wolverhampton and Birmingham and loyal team manager Will Pottinger.

Russell Youll

By Russell Youll
@russyoull_star

Group Sports Editor for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star

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