Eastbourne Eagles are resigned to losing star rider Bradley Wilson-Dean.

And they fear he could go for a knock-down price.

The New Zealander, who led Eagles to a hat-trick of knockout titles in thrilling style last season, is close to a permanent deal at Somerset, the club where he is on loan this season.

Eagles were shocked to hear that Somerset had announced the deal on Saturday and said they had no knowledge it was going ahead.

However they now accept the young hotshot they brought from this country in time for last season will be joining the Premier League track.

They expect a fee to be set at tribunal and are fearful it will be well short of their valuation of the rider who topped their averages last term.

The whole episode is made more confusing by speedway’s asset system. Eastbourne compete in the third-tier, semi-professional National League, whose clubs are no longer allowed to have their own assets, the word used in speedway for riders tied to a parent club.

They have essentially parked their assets, including Wilson-Dean, Richie Andrews and Georgie Wood, with Elite League track Lakeside, who are run by former Eagles promoter Jon Cook. Andrews is currently on loan to Cradley Heath while Wood is still based at Arlington.

Eagles were unable to use Wilson-Dean this season but hoped to keep him on their books to help earn them loan fees and potentially ride for them should they ever move up to the Premier League.

They initially responded to Somerset’s announcement about a permanent deal via Facebook. Eastbourne’s post read: “Somerset have not been in contact with Eastbourne Speedway. They were wrong to announce that they had signed BWD as he is actually still contracted to Lakeside under Eastbourne’s control; through our close working relationship that we share with Lakeside and Jon Cook.

“Quite embarrassing that press releases have gone out and unfortunately the information is incorrect.”

Eagles chairman Martin Dugard clarified the situation but told The Argus he was far from happy.

Dugard said: “We have been told Brad will be going to Somerset but no paperwork has been signed yet.

“I’ve asked the management committee how Somerset can announce something that hasn’t happened and they can’t give me an answer on that.

“The rider will go wherever he wants to go.

“We have no problem with Brad going but we are unhappy with the way it has been done by Somerset. They will get a good rider on the cheap which is why they are doing it.”

Dugard stressed he was keen to reinvest funds raised via loan fees for Wilson-Dean. He said: “The money will go back into the club.

“We are not here to make money out of it. We are here to help Eastbourne survive.

“We were hoping in the long run Brad would stay with us for the Premier League. His money in terms of loan fees would go back into the club.

“Unfortunately Brad has no loyalty to Eastbourne speedway.

“We were the only people who wanted to bring him into this country.

“He may well still be welding in New Zealand had we not helped him get here.”

Eastbourne return to action on Friday with a Knockout Cup trip to King’s Lynn, when they will look to protect the 61-28 lead they built up in the first leg of the quarter-final tie. Kent visit Arlington on Saturday in the league.