Published: 05:00, 28 April 2022
The man who saved speedway in Kent says the demise of Kent Kings felt like the break-up of the Beatles.
Si Kellow picked up the pieces after the club’s eight-year existence at Central Park came to an abrupt end last October and led to the retirement of legendary promoter Len Silver.
It was the end of the road for the Kings, who had just completed their maiden campaign as a Championship outfit, after co-promoter Roger Cearns sold the Central Park lease.
Cearns had sought assurances from the new owners that speedway could continue at the stadium but his efforts proved in vain.
Kellow, whose Iwade Garage company sponsored the club’s second string, the Kent Royals, decided he had to do something.
He managed to keep the Royals name alive, securing a new home at Iwade and entry into the National Development League.
A new second team, named Sittingbourne Crusaders, are racing in the Midlands and Southern Development League.
Home meetings will take place on Sundays, twice a month, with up to four hours of racing permitted under the terms of the club’s curfew.
“We had an interesting couple of days trying to get to the bottom of everything that was going on,” says Kellow, after news broke effectively announcing the end of speedway in Kent.
“With Roger having sold the lease at Central Park, it made Len’s life an awful lot more difficult and, approaching his 90th birthday, he decided it was time to retire.
“So that was it and if you were near anyone that’s involved in the sport, or near the team, it felt like the break-up of the Beatles for a couple of weeks.
“After a rapid lesson in what goes on, how a team comes together and what you need to do, I looked at it and thought I’m totally unknown, apart from to Kent fans, so there’s no point in me trying to pursue the Kings and the Royals.
“To try and find backers in what would amount to a couple of months was going to be a tall order, so the only realistic way of moving forward was to say, right, let’s see if we can get the Royals up and running, and then Graham Arnold at Iwade said come down and run it out of Iwade. Brilliant.
“Suddenly, the whole cost model of what was needed to get it off the ground, it was a vertical shift.”
The Royals were accepted into the league in December and then began the task of building a team.
That proved easier than expected, with Kellow approached by riders, including Ben Morley, the former Kings captain and record points scorer.
Danno Verge is another familiar name, as is team manager John Sampford.
Kellow said: “The old team, because of the uncertainty, had moved on to other places, which left me with a clean sheet but no knowledge of how you build a team, other than you’ve got a points system to work to and it’s not like you can just crack open your chequebook.
“A couple of riders, Ben being one of them, approached me and that was very reassuring because you’re thinking people do know me.
“From there, team negotiations moved very quickly and from what I’m told and have read in the speedway press, we’ve got one of the strongest two top or three in the league.
“That means nothing until you get out on the shale but it makes you feel you’ve done something right.”
Kent fans responded positively to the new regime, with an encouraging turnout of 150 at the press and practice day.
Kellow, who’s also encouraged fans of other lost clubs to get along to Iwade, says the Royals can achieve everything they want at their new home.
“The only limitation is it doesn’t have a bar but in terms of the track, it passed its inspection with flying colours,” said Kellow.
“The press and practice day showed me people are behind me with this. Speedway is such a fan-orientated sport, you get to know what’s going on in people’s lives.
“I know there were people whose mental health was on the edge because of what happened.
“By rolling the dice, I’ve actually done something positive to help.”
The Royals lost 51-39 at Mildenhall Fen Tigers in the first leg of their Knockout Cup semi-final on Sunday.
Morley top-scored with 11 points and Alfie Bowtell contributed 10.
The return is at Iwade this Sunday (12pm), with Leicester or Berwick awaiting the winners in the final.