SWINDON boss Alun Rossiter has pointed the finger at former Sheffield promoter David Hoggart as the Robins’ struggles at reserve continue.
The new Great Britain team manager has accused Hoggart, who is no longer involved in speedway, of allowing the Robins to pick Josh Bates with the second selection in the second round of the Fast Track Draft, despite knowing he was more than likely going to move Swindon’s fellow Thursday track Sheffield in the Premier League.
Swindon eventually allowed Bates to make the move to Owlerton after accepting it was in his best interests to ride regularly at his local track, where a consortium involving members of his family had recently taken over.
Bates has since gone on to be crowned British Under 21 champion and came close to qualifying for the World Under 21 final from his semi at Leicester on Saturday, while the Robins have struggled to fill the second reserve spot he originally vacated. Nathan Greaves will become the third permanent rider to ride behind Steve Worrall this season when he takes to the track at Wolverhampton tonight, taking over from axed youngster Dan Greenwood who failed to finish higher than third in any of his 22 heats for Swindon.
If Rossiter had known of Bates’ potential move to Sheffield he could have picked a different rider with the second selection of round two, potentially Joe Jacobs who is currently ranked ninth in the pecking order, but now is left using a rider ranked 33rd on the draft list while Bates is ranked 17th.
With on-form Worrall ranked eighth and Greaves 33rd, the Robins have the joint lowest-ranked reserve pairing in the Elite League along with Belle Vue while, had they kept hold of Bates, they would have had the fifth highest as things stand.
The Robins have been arguing they should be a entitled to select a rider of Bates’ ranking to replace Greenwood, given Bates was their original selection, but those moves are so far thought to have been rebuffed by the BSPA management committee.
“It’s made our season really difficult, it really has,” Rossiter said.
“David Hoggart knew back in November that the Bates family were taking over at Sheffield and that Josh would be going there, but allowed us to pick him anyway and didn’t inform Phil Morris when he went and did the draft lists. Only after we had picked him did Mr Hoggart make it known Josh was likely to be moving to Sheffield.
“We allowed Josh to join Sheffield because we thought it was the right thing to do, it really was because it’s his local track with members of his family running things. We did that in good faith both for the sport and for the rider.
“We could have made a different pick much higher up the order had we known about Josh going to Sheffield but, by the time we found out it was too late and everyone had already made their choices. That left us using riders much lower down when we could have had someone close to where Josh Bates is now, or even higher.
“All of this has caused problems on the track and issues for our business off it as well and we’re not happy because we are severely disadvantaged.”
Rossiter has also accused Hoggart of being the driving force behind Sheffield’s alleged illegal approach for Nick Morris.
“Sheffield made it clear to Mr Hoggart that they didn’t want anything to do with something like that so soon after coming in but he chose to carry on trying to get Nick anyway,” Rossiter said.
“That was wrong and unsettled us over the winter.”
However, Hoggart insists he was not involved in any negotiations to bring Bates to Sheffield and never spoke to Nick Morris regarding a move away from Swindon.
He told the Advertiser: “I was not involved in any negotiations to bring Josh Bates to Sheffield and, notwithstanding that, I raised the issue at the draft meeting because I believed at that time Josh wanted to ride at Sheffield even though I had not spoken with him,” he said.
“I had been made aware he wanted to ride for Sheffield and raised it as a challenge to Phil Morris and Jon Cook on the day in the presence of Pete Toogood (Robins promoter).
“I have never spoken to Nick Morris about moving to Sheffield and the last time I did speak to him was about him potentially guesting for us at Leicester last year.”