Why Connor can help Eagles bring in new generation

Connor Dugard

Connor Dugard

First published in Sport by

Connor Dugard wants to get Eastbourne Eagles back up to speed off the track.

Which is why he joined the race to head their commercial team going into the new season.

The 19-year-old, pictured below, believes speedway has a lot more going for it than some give credit.

So he joined 15 other applicants and came through an interview process for the post of commercial manager at the club founded by his great grandfather.

“I told them if I was just given the job I didn’t want it,” said Dugard, who is son of former star rider Martin.

“I’ve always wanted to work closely with the speedway and I know I could do something from a younger perspective.

“I’d like to bring speedway into the 21st century at Eastbourne. We have got the Facebook page, a new website, Instagram and social media.

“I want to bring a younger generation into speedway.

“I can understand it can be a cold evening and the meeting can drag on and the money aspect comes into it as well.

“But we have noticed you get your diehard 500 fans and there are 100,000 people in Eastbourne.

“If we get 1.5% of that, that’s 1,500 people and we have covered ourselves already.”

Actually Eagles’ average crowd last season was better than 500.

But the figure of 770 was still the lowest in memory and the trend in recent years has been downwards.

Hence the need to rejuvenate the fanbase and the way the club do things.

Dugard admits he has fallen out of love with racing at times since he first rode a bike at the age of five.

But he keeps coming back. And he believes offering youngsters a chance to give it a go for themselves will engage their interest.

He is also keen to encourage communication between club and fans.

He said: “The hardest thing you have got with speedway is that it’s not like putting down two jumpers and getting a ball and playing football.

“If you actually want to ride speedway you can be talking about £600 before you even start.

“So we are trying to get people to come to the track through our training schools and actually experience it. When you have ridden a bike you think ‘Wow!’.

“We are trying to offer a promotion where people can watch from the centre green. I’ve noticed if you stand on the centre green your realise just how fast it is.

“We are trying to get people involved.

“We set up a Facebook page but we might make that into a profile so people can interact more. Obviously we have to keep a close eye on that in case we start to see any abuse.

“But on our first 12 days we have 350 likes so we are quite impressed with that.

“Via our website we are setting up a suggestion box for people to say what we should try or, if they go to a meeting and don’t like something, to tell us.”

Dugard is also out and about doing the legwork and talking to potential sponsors.

Eastbourne have lowered the stake for their 100 Club from £1,000 to £250 and restructured sponsorship and hospitality on offer.

A deal with a main backer is close to completion.

But what will sell the club are results and Dugard reckons the seven men on the shale – including young Danish hotshot Mikkel Michelsen – can make his role, which he combines with a day job in the spares department at the family business, a bit easier.

He said: “I think the team is the best we have had since Lee Richardson and Scott Nicholls rode together (in 2008). So it’s exciting. And we want people to feel involved.”

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