NEWPORT Speedway promoter Steve Mallett fears the Queensway Meadows Stadium is cursed – and with good reason.

Last week the 11th-hour collapse of a potential financial lifeline meant Mr Mallett was forced to pull the plug on speedway at the stadium, three years after resurrecting the sport in the city.

And now the stadium’s main stand has suffered extensive fire and smoke damage after being set alight some time during Sunday night or early yesterday morning.

The damage was confined to an internal section of the main stand and roof, and happened hours before a downbeat Mr Mallett was due to hand back the stadium keys to the landowners.

Two years ago an “exorcism” was held in an attempt to rid the stadium of an alleged gipsy curse, thought by some to be responsible for bringing ten years of bad luck for several of those associated with Newport Speedway.

It was an event portrayed in somewhat lighthearted terms, but yesterday as he recounted discovering the fire damage at shortly after 7am Mr Mallett was in no mood for joking.

“It feels like this place is cursed,” he said.

“We had a break-in last Thursday (the day the closure was announced) for the first time in a long time and fence panels were ripped off and a couple of lights smashed.

“Then when I got here this morning I found all this.

Someone set fire to the office area and it’s taken upstairs and part of the steelwork.

They also tried to set the other end of the stand alight but it didn’t take.

“The fire was contained by the building so there mustn’t have been many flames. It was out when I got here.

“I was handing the keys to the place over but this is going to cost money now.”

The cost of the fire has yet to be determined, but a South Wales Fire Service investigation concluded it was deliberately set. Gwent Police are investigating.

Witnesses or anyone with informationmay contact 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Speedway sorrow

THE fire at Newport Speedway’s Queensway Meadows Stadium is pretty much the final nail in the coffin. Last week promoter Steve Mallett announced the end of the sport in Newport, closing it down after a lastminute takeover bid failed.

It’s a far cry from its heyday when it attracted huge crowds at its launch in 1964 at Somerton Park.

Father and son Steve and Nick Mallett took over the running at the start of the 2009 season but often seemed to be fighting a losing battle.

This was despite last year being the club’s most successful since 1999. But it was a deal to bring stock car racing to the ground that failed and seemed to ultimately sign the death warrant for speedway there.

The fire on Sunday that damaged the stand and part of the roof only hours before the stadium keys were due to be handed back to the owners is just another sad episode in its history.

Speedway has bounced back before.

If it does again it certainly needs to be bigger and better than ever before to ensure its longevity in the city.