SOMERSET Speedway has made the decision not to compete in the 2021 season, amid ongoing concerns around the financial credibility of the club.

The Rebels had been due to compete in the SGB Championship, the second tier of British Speedway, once again this year.

But promoter Debbie Hancock said that the club - which is based at the Oaktree Arena, Edithmead - could not be assured of a full season of speedway, and so could not "commit to the risk of operating at a loss".

Hancock's statement said: "It is with a truly heavy heart that Dad [Bill Hancock], Garry [May, team manager] and I have reached the decision to put our licence on hold, and we have informed our fellow promoters at today's Annual General Meeting of that fact.

"As a family-run business, we have always prided ourselves in ensuring all riders and suppliers are paid in a timely manner and not run up any debts, but our concerns are that our income streams could be tested too greatly for that to be the case in 2021.

"We have first-hand knowledge of how the Oaktree Arena operation has been greatly hit financially with no regular income as a consequence of the pandemic, and indications are that it will be a while yet before indoor functions are likely to be sanctioned again by the government.

"So, from our own experience alone, we fear that there will be many other businesses with a similar story to tell.

"While some of our loyal sponsors have indicated their willingness to continue to back the speedway, it is all too evident that many organisations will have a different view on their sponsorship budgets.

"The world remains very much in a perilous state right now and even though there are green shoots of a health recovery by virtue of the vaccines that are being rolled out, we feel that there will still be too much uncertainty in respect of lifting restrictions sufficiently to allow a normal season to run.

"We respect the beliefs that a number of clubs hold for a return to a season of racing at some stage in 2021 but, from our perspective, unless we could be assured of a full campaign, and it is obvious that nobody can give those assurances at this stage, then as promoters of Somerset Speedway we cannot commit to the risk of operating at a loss.

"Therefore we have decided to withdraw and allow the riders as much opportunity as possible to find alternative team places.

"We must emphasise that this decision was not reached lightly and was the matter of great deliberation, not least because we really didn't want to let our fans down, but we had to face the hard facts.

"There can be no-one more disappointed than I am and I can only conclude this statement by saying a very big thank you to everyone who has supported us over 20 years of racing, both on and off track."