Speedway Ekstraliga riders test negative for COVID-19, green lights on

All the riders from the Polish speedway PGE Ekstraliga tested negative for the presence of COVID-19 on Wednesday, which means that the best league in the world received the green light for launching their competition.

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The riders are now entitled to begin training on the track. Some had to endure a two-week quarantine as they travelled to Poland from all over the world.

Meetings of the best speedway league in the world are due to start in line with the sanitary regime on June 12. It is the second sports competition in Poland after the football league Ekstraklasa to begin competition after the break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are very happy above all from a purely human point of view that all tested players, mechanics as well as club employees as well as functionaries and judges are, colloquially speaking, "clean". Now all that remains is to prepare for the start of training and then to the meetings”, said Wojciech Stępniewski, the CEO of PGE Ekstraliga.

PGE Ekstraliga is the world’s best speedway competition and has the highest average attendance for any sport in Poland. In the 2018 season, the average attendance was 10,559 spectators, while in 2019 - 10,800. For comparison, the 2017/18 season of the football Ekstraklasa amounted to 9,442, while in 2018/19, the average attendance dropped to 8,800.

Eight teams fight for the Polish Championship in a two-round league stage. After 14 meetings, the four best clubs compete in the semifinal stage, and then in the final and the ¾ placement legs. The seventh team faces the second best team from the second tier division, while the weakest gets relegated.

Apart from the best audience figures in Poland, PGE Ekstraliga attracts the best riders in the world in terms of salaries. Even amidst the coronavirus crisis, competitors from Australia, the UK, Sweden, Denmark and Russia resolved to spend two weeks under quarantine in Poland, often far away from their families, to be able to earn not only the priceless experience on the track, but also to earn a living in the difficult times.

Fogo Unia Leszno, the current title holder, have won three consecutive titles, and are considered one of the most serious contestants to lift the trophy in 2020 as well. However, Leszno has been plunged into turmoil as their leader Emil Sayfutdinov could not agree terms as regards contract provisions. The runner-ups from 2019, Betard Sparta Wrocław, are also on the verge of losing one of their key links, Maksym Drabik, due to doping issues.

On paper, Włókniarz Częstochowa has the strongest senior lineup, with world champion from 2017 Jason Doyle, 2019 runner-up Leon Madsen and the veterans Fredrik Lindgren and Rune Holta. GKM Grudziądz and Motor Lublin have also strengthened their ranks by contracting, respectively, the likes of three-time world champion Nicki Pedersen and Matej Zagar and also keeping their best riders at their sides. Renowned sides from Lubuskie province: Falubaz Zielona Góra and Stal Gorzów Wielkopolski will not give up easily either. This season, Patryk Dudek (Falubaz) and world champion Bartosz Zmarzlik (Stal) will have solid support and the rivalry for the play-off stage looks dope.

The newcomers, ROW Rybnik are in theory doomed to failure, because they have no big names in their ranks. However, Motor Lublin was in a similar situation in 2019, yet they managed to finish the season in the safe zone.

The 2020 season is set to end in mid-October. Meetings of Ekstraliga will take place every weekend starting from June 12.