SOMERSET Speedway "will be no longer", after promoter Debbie Hancock announced that the Hancock family had decided to retire from speedway competition.

Somerset Rebels were founded in 2000 and competed at the Oaktree Arena, near Highbridge, with notable success over the last two decades.

The Rebels' roll of honour includes them winning the Premier League title in 2013 and 2016, the Premier League KO Cup in 2008, 2013 and 2015, and the Premiership KO Cup in 2018.

However, the club declared it would not compete in the 2021 season, amid concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic and its own financial credibility.

READ MORE: Rebels pull out of 2021 speedway season

Today Debbie Hancock said: "It is with a heavy heart that I have to advise supporters and sponsors that the Hancock family have decided to retire from British Speedway, and Somerset will be no longer.

"I can assure everyone who has backed the club that, had it not been for the outbreak of Covid-19, we would have not been in the position that we have found ourselves in.

"Furthermore, I would like everyone to know that we never had any intention to sell the clubhouse, as that was very much a personal project that the family had built up over the years.

"But the loss of the facility due to the Covid-19 restrictions hit us financially, with the clubhouse not being able to open.

"Its core business was the hosting of large functions and it became apparent to us that, on numbers of 30 people or less, it would cost us money to re-open on the basis of seating restrictions and social distance compliance, once the government legislation permitted it.

"I am sure that there will be some people who won't believe me when I say that we did not even advertise the sale of the facility, and that it was just a chance conversation Dad [Bill Hancock] had with someone on a bleak day in February that led to a would-be buyer coming forward.

"This was a month after we had made the call to put our licence on hold for the 2021 season, because of our concerns over the Covid-19 restrictions.

"We discussed the offer as a family and, to be honest, while it was an agonising decision, it was a no-brainer to sell the clubhouse."

"Of course, we all recognised that the huge downside was that potentially we would no longer be able to run speedway, but we had to run with our heads and not our hearts, and while I know that our decision will upset many fans that have stuck by us over the years, I genuinely hope that they live with all the great memories Somerset Speedway has generated over the years, and understand as a family why we have had to come to this day.

"I know that our many loyal fans will undoubtedly take this news hard.

"Once again, it was not an easy decision to make but one that was based on pure economics.

"We have made many friends over the years and there have also been many friendships made between our supporters. Long may they continue to flourish."

Hancock added: "There have been other factors underpinning our decision.

"Not least the fact that our request for extra planning permission from our local council to do more training schools, in an attempt to encourage more youngsters to break through into the sport and help us financially, was turned down.

"We believed that, had we had that option, it would have helped make us a great speedway club but unfortunately this was turned down on the basis of unsatisfactory noise levels.

"To my mind that seemed crazy and it came as a bitter blow when I know clubs such as Scunthorpe, who also own their own track, can do what they do.

"Genuinely, as a family we have put everything into running Somerset Speedway and it has not always been an easy task, but we did it and we are proud of what we have achieved.

"At all stages of our decision-making process we thought of all the key people who had given so much to Somerset Speedway.

"In recent years we had been blessed with having a formidable co-promoter and team manager in Garry May.

"In my book he was one of the best team managers in recent years. What he doesn’t know about tactics and putting a team together is not worth talking about.

"We feel for Gazza, and appreciate the pain he must be feeling in seeing his beloved Rebels close down.

"Me, Dad and Mum simply cannot thank him enough for what he has done over the last few years.

"He will always be a great family friend and certainly a best friend to me.

"I am sure that speedway will find him an opportunity to shine again at some point in the future."

Reflecting on the last 10 years, Hancock said: "Cases have been phenomenal sponsors of Somerset Speedway, and I cannot thank Ian Burns, Sean Campbell and Rob Nigh enough for all their support, having become our headline sponsors in 2012.

"There have also been so many other team partners and sponsors along the years that have also continuously backed us, and to all of those we offer our sincere thanks and gratitude.

"No speedway club could survive without the efforts of the track and backroom staff.

"What they bring to a race night and being able to make an event happen is immeasurable and I know some of it is a thankless task, so on this very sad occasion I would like to offer up a huge thank you for the time that has been given over the years, by either current or retired staff.

"Finally, I would like to inform all supporters that while we will be selling the Air Fence, an asset that many fans have contributed towards over the years, all monies received will be donated to our charity partners - Somerset and Dorset Air Ambulance."