Express & Star

Wolves promoter Chris Van Straaten says 'his world has collapsed' after Monmore Green decision

Devastated Wolves promoter Chris Van Straaten says it feels like his “world has collapsed” following the decision by Monmore Green’s owners to no longer stage speedway at the venue.

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Van Straaten, who has run the team since 1986, claims to have been left “on the floor” since receiving the bombshell news at a meeting with stadium owners Entain Group last month.

The decision, which will see speedway cease at the venue from the end of this season, places the future of the club in serious jeopardy and Van Straaten admitted it is currently difficult to see a way forward.

He told the Express & Star: “I’m like one of those clown toys children used to have, the ones you can knock down and they get back up.

“I have been knocked down so many times now I do not know if I can get back up again, the way I am feeling now. It is too soon for me to know how I can react.

“My energy will come back. But at the moment it is difficult to describe how I feel. Now it is out in the open, with everyone working together, maybe there is a way. We need to find somewhere else to go but that is not easy.

“At the moment, I am on the floor. It has come as such an unexpected shock.”

Van Straaten, who has typically operated on a three-year rolling licence, claims to have been offered a four-year contract as recently as February, though this is refuted by Entain.

He was called to a meeting at Monmore on March 16, where he was informed the company wished to focus on a new greyhound venture and no longer wanted Wolves as tenants at the venue.

“It took my breath away,” said Van Straaten. “My world had collapsed. Discussions over a new three-year deal began last year. Nothing in these discussions gave me any indication a new contract would not be forthcoming.

“I finally received a draft offer in February. I took the delay down to them ensuring any new deal reflected utility price rises. When I received it, I noticed the contract was for four years. We were delighted to have an extra year.

“The offer was duly signed by myself and returned on March 1 and I received a reply from their solicitor and a note saying the counter signed signature would be returned in due course. It was never returned with an Entain signature on it. I had no inkling what was around the corner.”

Van Straaten says a mutual decision was taken with Entain to delay an official announcement until after the start of the season, so as not to detract from the testimonial of Wolves captain Sam Masters or the opening league meetings.

“I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep for a month, with this terrible secret to bear,” he said.

“I told no-one except my wife, after she noticed a change in my mood.

“My whole family, my children, are absolutely wound up in speedway. I have been there 36 years. Our lives have revolved around speedway.

“I also have a significant asset of a speedway plant at the venue. Without the stadium alongside it, the value plummets. My business is gone too.

“I’ve bounced back before but I need time to recover from this. If I have shouted at people over the past few weeks, I hope they forgive me. It has floored me. This has been my world for such a long time.

“It is difficult to understand why they can’t fit us in. I have been wracking my brains. When you sign a four-year contract, you do not expect your world to collapse.”