DESPITE having made the Premiership play-offs and won the KO Cup in 2018, the Somerset Rebels have announced that they will drop down to the second tier of British speedway for 2019, their 20th anniversary season.

Club owner Debbie Hancock and team manager Garry May met more than 100 supporters at Tuesday night's fans forum at the Oaktree Arena, telling them that the Rebels management had found themselves in a no-win situation at the AGM conference.

Although they were eager to remain in the Premiership, a combination of costs and the need to change race nights again made it impractical to continue in the top flight.

Hancock said: "I am sat here this evening still gutted and feeling a sense of failure that we can't bring you the top level speedway, but our ultimate aim has to be the long-term future of Somerset speedway, something that Garry and dad Bill share my passion for, so I can only hope that our supporters will continue to support us.

"We do struggle with footfall here at Somerset because we are not a big town club like many of our Premiership rivals, so we have to manage our costs carefully and we could not afford the high costs associated in that league."

The Championship gives a team limit of 38 points to work with, making May's job a difficult one in constructing a line-up for 2019.

He said: "It has been devilishly hard to work within such a limit, but I promise Rebels fans I will put together the best possible team I can that will not break us as a club.

"I can confirm that Nico Covatti will be returning after his excellent time here last season when he came on board mid-season.

"I can also reveal that a deal has been done with Chris Harris, who is very keen to ride for us and I believe will do a great job."

Covatti starred in the Rebels' KO Cup win, while Harris' last-gasp heat win for Poole Pirates ended the Somerset side's Premiership title ambitions in the play-off semi-finals.

The rest of the team is still to be announced, but one rider who will not be joining is fans' favourite Charles Wright, who returned as a guest rider for the KO Cup final after leaving the club due to a falling out with May.

May said they had offered Wright a "good deal", but had been "gazumped" by a better offer from another club.