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SWINDON ROBINS: Batchelor lifts lid on Robins' turbulent season
TROY Batchelor has lifted the lid on the bad atmosphere which swept through the Swindon pits due to the club’s financial troubles and dented their bid to retain their Elite League title - but despite all the drama the Australian remains open to a return to the Robins in 2014.
The Blunsdon side’s title bid ended at the hands of rivals Poole more than a fortnight ago in a dramatic play-off semi-final, and although Alun Rossiter’s side battled bravely to the end in a bid to keep hold of the trophy, 2013 is likely to be a season best remembered for issues away from the track.
Riders went unpaid for long spells, which eventually came to a head when Hans Andersen, Peter Kildemand, Edward Kennett and Batchelor only prepared one bike for an August clash with Belle Vue - a move made to highlight the fact they were owed more than £50,000.
While the act was not a protest or designed to cause trouble, it brought to the fore a series of issues which made it hard for the riders to do their jobs and Batchelor has now revealed how he feared the club wouldn’t last the season, and how he and his teammates dealt with turning up to work without being paid.
“It was a long season with a lot of problems off the track with money issues and at some points I really didn’t think we would finish the season at all,” he said.
“At least we got it finished and that’s a positive, and hopefully some changes behind the scenes will make the club stronger for the future.
“You need to have a good working environment to be able to do a good job and for us this year it wasn’t a good environment. It affected our results and I think we could have been top of the league if we had been happy all year, but it didn’t work out like that.
“It was so annoying because there was a bad atmosphere around the place, not in the team because we are all friends, but overall. Rosco was always saying to us ‘come on, we’ve got to win we’ve got to win’ but we just said ‘why, what for because we’re not getting anything out of it?’ “We would have had a better season if that hadn’t happened, for sure, and there were times where we couldn’t be bothered with it all.
“If other people weren’t being paid they wouldn’t have done their jobs, but it’s different for us because we have to turn up otherwise we get banned.
“We turned up and did half a job, and the first time we lost at Belle Vue in the last race we didn’t care, nobody cared, and we just laughed and said ‘ oh well we’re not being paid anyway so who cares.’ “I feel sorry for the fans because they pay their money and want to see a good meeting, and I like to ride in good meetings when everything is right and it’s fun, but we have to be paid. We weren’t asking for anything extra than was agreed at the start of the season but we weren’t being paid, although the fans were still paying the same money. You have to feel sorry for them.”
British speedway enters into the unknown this winter with a raft of changes seemingly necessary to keep the sport afloat in this country, leaving riders of Batchelor’s class in limbo and unsure whether or not riding in the UK will be a viable option.
The Australian has competed on these shores since first appearing for King’s Lynn in 2005 and is keen to continue riding at the tracks where he learnt his trade, and while he would also be open to a return to Blunsdon despite a testing 2013 he admitted he and his international-standard peers may be forced to leave if the sport in this country is streamlined.
“It’s too early to say, but I enjoy the Swindon fans and I like working with Rosco, Hans and the team, and it’s all good because the stadium is good and the track is usually good,” he said.
“Everything works there and Thursday’s a good night for me, and there’s some new guys going in there so it’s definitely not a no that’s for sure, even after everything that’s happened.
“I hope to be able to continue to ride in Britain because I like it here and it’s good to keep on the bike, but there’s a lot of talk going round that there might not be Sky anymore which will hurt the money situation more.
“There’s also talk of one big league and we have to wait and see what happens, but if nothing really changes from this year and the money’s the same then you expect everyone to be back.
“If the money goes, we have to go because at the moment we don’t really make much money anyway. You have to have a mechanic here and have a full set-up because we don’t have time to look after our own bikes, so if the money’s cut you have to cut the mechanic and then there’s no time to sort things.
“For the guys who ride just in Britain it’s fine because they wash their own bikes because they are not flying to other countries, but for us we have to pay a mechanic a couple of hundred pounds a week and then pay for other things too to keep the equipment on top form.
“Speedway is expensive and in honesty you probably only keep 20 per cent of the money you earn if you are lucky, and the rest goes to expenses, so if the money is cut then we have no option but to go because it’s not like we can pay to ride.”
Batchelor will be in action at Swindon on Saturday in the Elite League Riders Championship as a replacement for American Greg Hancock who is unavailable.
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