Ipswich snap up top Devils rider Barker
PLYMOUTH Devils' number one Ben Barker has left St Boniface Arena for Premier League rivals Ipswich Witches.
The 22-year-old (above) from Truro, Cornwall has led Devils in scoring in two stellar seasons at the club.
Barker becomes Witches', who finished mid-table last season while Devils were bottom, new number one.
Witches' number one this summer was 35-year-old veteran and homegrown rider Leigh Lanham.
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Barker, who doubled up for Elite League club Birmingham Brummies, is also set to join a new Elite team.
Barker's 9.83 effective average last season was the best in the Premier League.
Witches co-promoter Chris Louis said: "I am pleased to welcome the Premier League's top number one on board for next year.
"Ben consistently scores big points wherever he rides and is just what we need to head our team in 2013."
Devils' under fire chief Mike Bowden has said Devils could return to the third-tier National League next season.
Meanwhile, commercial boss Brian Cave has not ruled out a return to troubled Devils – if a bid to buy the city speedway club was to be resurrected.
Cave, commercial manager for the Premier League club on a voluntary basis, quit his post last week.
He has revealed that a return to the club was not out of the question if a consortium's attempts to buy the Devils comes off.
The consortium, which includes former Devils skipper Seemond Stephens, were negotiating a lease with the governors of St Boniface College.
They are responsible for the land on which the Devils' St Boniface Arena stands.
Members of the consortium have been throwing doubt on the deal going through, but Cave said he was upbeat about the possibility it might still happen.
He said he resigned from the Devils because his job would become more and more difficult.
He said that would happen if current Devils promoter Mike Bowden put the club back in the National League.
Bowden, who started the Devils more than six years ago, has gone public on the possibility of returning the city club to the lowest level of UK speedway after two seasons in the Premier.
Cave said it was difficult enough to get sponsorship from firms without the Devils taking a drop in the league pecking order.
He said: "As a commercial manager, it's not an easy task to get sponsorship.
"If we drop to the National League, it will become even more difficult.
"Attendances will fall, because although we had very good attendances in our National League days, people have got used to two years in the Premier League and having done that, they're not going to come back for National.
"Therefore, as a commercial manager, I wouldn't be in a position to give a potential sponsor the benefits from a much larger attendance and league."
Cave, however, said he could return to the St Boniface Arena in the future if the conditions were right.
He said: "I've got to make it clear I resigned from the current club promotion.
"If that promotion was to change hands, then I'd obviously have to reconsider."
Cave is not the only Devil to leave the club, who finished bottom of the Premier League last season.
Joint team manager Lee Trigger announced he would not be rejoining the club next season if the proposed consortium takeover failed.
Bowden, however, says he has lined up a replacement, although the new man has not been identified.
Consortium members were hoping to get the new lease sorted out with the governors before next weekend's British Speedway Promoters Association annual meeting from November 16-18.
At that meeting, teams have to declare their intention to race next season.