The Kiwi entrepreneur and business heavyweight who has been at the helm of speedway at Auckland's Western Springs for nearly two decades has a grim prediction for the future of the event.
Bill Buckley, the man behind Buckley Systems Limited — the world's leading supplier of precision electromagnets - took over running speedway at Western Springs Stadium in 2002. He now warns, however, that speedway "won't be around much longer" despite having pumped more than $5 million of his own money into it over the years.
Buckley's contract to run the show expired in March and he was unsuccessful in his attempt to renew it, with Regional Facilities Auckland electing to instead award the tender to Palmerston North and Waikaraka Park promoter Bruce Robertson.
The new lease sees Robertson take over speedway operations at Western Springs on a two-year contract with the option of two subsequent rights of renewal of one year each.
Speaking to the Herald on Friday, 77-year-old Buckley, whose wealth was last year estimated by the NBR Rich List at $110 million, said he wasn't even the first person in his office to learn he had missed out on the tender.
"They made an agreement and wanted it kept quiet until they spoke to me; well my office girl found out before I did," Buckley said. "She had talked to Bruce Robertson who said he definitely had it. So, she rang me while the council was talking to me and said she knew.
"I put a fair tender in I reckon and tried to satisfy that bloody RFA. But they obviously wanted new blood there – because I'm sure they're not going to finish up with what I was offering.
"It's disappointing, but we'll just move on. I've got plenty to do without having to worry about that.
"I don't think speedway will be around for much longer. We don't get any support from anybody."
Buckley has butted heads with the council in recent times over the future of the sport in Auckland, with the council wanting to move it from the venue.
Several options had been discussed and a new motorsport hub at Colin Dale Park near Auckland Airport was part of a plan by RFA to streamline Auckland's ageing and under-used stadiums.
However, speedway couldn't move until the infrastructure was built and the lease for Western Springs was extended. The length of the new tender suggests a possible move to Colin Dale Park will be further deferred.
In discussions last year around the future of the sport, Buckley told RFA he would continue to fund the running of speedway in Auckland but would not be paying big money to help the infrastructure and construction costs at the proposed Colin Dale Park venue.
Buckley did offer to put $5m into an earlier proposal to move speedway to Mt Smart but that was rejected and the money was subsequently taken off the table.
Buckley, who also runs speedway in Tauranga, criticised RFA for going ahead with the tender process despite the uncertainty that came with the Covid-19 pandemic and for making "everything as impossible as they possibly could" for speedway in Auckland.
In RFA's press release announcing the tender had been awarded to Robertson, Buckley's name was not mentioned once.
"They've done everything in their power to make speedway as unpresentable as possible.
"Bay of Plenty seems to really want to work with me, and these pricks never wanted to work with me."