LEICESTER Lions are set to return to the top-flight of British Speedway next season.

The Lions will re-join the Premiership, a level they last raced at in 2018, after a successful period of Championship racing in which the club has moved forward both on an off-track with increased attendances and commercial activity.

And they are pleased to announce immediately that co-promoter and team manager Stewart Dickson will remain at the helm as they make the step up.

Home Premiership meetings will primarily be held on Thursday evenings, with occasional Mondays as the Lions will feature in live television coverage on Eurosport.

But there will still be weekend racing at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena as the club remain committed to the Lion Cubs in the National Development League, and these matches will take place on Saturdays – normally in the weeks where there has been no Thursday meeting in the Premiership.

Club co-owner Damien Bates has cited several factors leading to the decision, and is adamant that the Lions are far better placed to succeed at the top level than they were when his family purchased the club in 2017.

He said: “We’ve given this matter a great deal of thought throughout the year, and having stabilised and grown the club over the past few seasons, we do feel this is the appropriate time.

“With the way the leagues have evolved in recent years, we feel that at the moment the Premiership is better suited to our own business model, and we’re confident the club can thrive at that level.

“In addition, the travel costs of racing in the Championship have escalated and we incur significant costs with matches against the likes of Glasgow, Berwick, Edinburgh, Poole and Plymouth – and it’s also expensive for our supporters.

“It also feels like there are now even more counter-attractions on Saturday evenings with the Grand Prix, and then in the football season the 5.30pm game is often a prominent one, plus there’s further competition on occasions with the rugby.

“The club is now far more equipped to compete at Premiership level and on behalf of my family as owners I can assure everyone that Stewart will be given the resources to carry on the great work he has done over the last three seasons.”

Dickson will take full-time charge of a Premiership team for the first time, having led the Lions to the Championship play-offs in each of his three seasons in charge.

They won the Grand Final against Glasgow in 2019 and have reached the title decider again this year where they will face reigning champions Poole.

He said: “I understand supporters might be a bit sceptical about returning to the Premiership given how tough it was for them the last time the Lions raced at that level.

“But I do very much concur with the views of the owners, and I think the supporters will know me well enough by now to understand that I don’t ever plan to go into a season looking to make the numbers up.

“I will be working to build a Premiership team which is fully able to compete at that level, and I’m confident we will be able to do so.

“I do think there are advantages for the supporters with this, especially the increase in local derbies with the likes of Wolverhampton, Peterborough and Sheffield, and we’ll also look forward to welcoming their fans to Leicester.

“The National Development League is important to us as well, and we will have those meetings running on Saturdays which wasn’t the case the last time the Lions were in the Premiership.

“I’m excited to get going, and it’s going to be an interesting winter – but I also want to stress that we have a big job to do over the next few weeks in October before we leave the Championship.

“We will be fully focused on trying to win the Grand Final and also the CJL Final when it takes place, plus we also have the Lion Cubs going for honours, and this news doesn’t lessen our determination in any of that.”

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