Speedway: Lions eye Elite League place
Leicester Lions could be doing battle with speedway's big guns in the Sky Sports Elite League next season.
Ambitious promoter David Hemsley is exploring the possibility and, if he feels the time is right to step up a level, the likes of Poole Pirates, Swindon Robins, Lakeside Hammers and Birmingham Brummies could be revving around Beaumont Park.
"It has always been my intention to return Leicester to the very highest level of competition which we had in the city in the 1970s and early 1980s," said Hemsley.
"If, after negotiations with the British Speedway Promoters' Association, we find that conditions are right for our club then we will move into the Sky Sports Elite League ready for the 2013 season."
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Speedway returned to Leicester only two years ago after an absence of 28 years.
They finished bottom of the Premier League last season but, this time around, have improve dramatically and qualified for the play-offs in the sport's second tier.
Behind the scenes, both Hemsley and co-promoter Alan Jones have been establishing firm foundations for speedway's future in the city, and continuous improvement is a major factor.
Should they take the big step, the Lions will look to considerably strengthen their rider line-up.
"We will search for an out-and-out No.1 who can lead our side forward into the new era," said Hemsley.
"I will endeavour to secure a world-renowned rider, somebody who every person in Leicester will be able to associate with and become a household name like Lineker and Underwood from the football and rugby.
"I know one of the biggest concerns from our fans will be the riders who they have grown an association with.
"Should we make the Elite League, then we shall endeavour to retain a number of the fans' current favourites who would be capable of making a positive name for themselves at the higher level."
As for staging such top-class speedway at Beaumont Park, Hemsley has no doubts.
"Our facilities are more than capable of hosting Elite League speedway," he said.
"Our track has been designed to the very highest standard, something that has been evident this summer with all the poor weather. We were able to ensure that many of our meetings can be run when other tracks were rained off.
"Operating within the Sky Sports Elite League will open up many commercial opportunities for the team, certainly as one of the headline teams next year.
"The Lions will be looking to take full advantage of the opportunities presented to them to ensure a successful year for the club."
Dates have been confirmed for three of the Lions' four play-off dates. The fourth, against Somerset at Beaumont Park, has still to be agreed. Fixtures:
Fri, Oct 5 v Somerset (a);
Sat, Oct 6 v Newcastle (h, 7.30);
Sun, Oct 7 v Newcastle (a, 7.0).