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Pictures: ELIZABETH LESLIE AND THE JOHN SOMERVILLE COLLECTION

…back to this?

There isn’t any magic wand, there will be no overnight transformation and crowds won’t suddenly go up by 20 per cent.

But a long-term blueprint needs to be in place, not just for 2019 but to go up to and beyond the sport’s centenary in 2028.

Here are SEVEN things I would like to be hearing about over the winter…

1

The formation of a committee to come up with ways of getting speedway back into the public consciousness. That can’t be done by restricting membership to current promoters. The BSPA must reach out to experts in their own field of sports marketing.

I have beaten this particular drum before but there are supporters out there who are professionals in the sporting field. People like Scott Field, Director of Communications at the British Olympic Association; Ann Webber, who guided Mark’s motor racing career; Ian Sinderson, Group Chief Finance Officer of ATPI Limited and formerly Director of their Sports Events Division.

They have a wealth of knowledge that should be tapped into and they are more than willing to share that experience because they are all speedway fans.

Should all riders be centrally contracted? Should clubs supply the machinery and riders simply get paid much lower points money because they have less outlay? Should riders get paid a weekly wage?

These are the sort of subjects that should be at least discussed as a possible way forward.

2

A pledge to turn speedway into an entertaining, exciting night out for the younger generation.

Something must be done to attract the millenials rather than more of the same old adjustment of points limits, restricting team strengths, and taking supporters for granted.

Fans MUST be entertained from the minute they hand over their hard-earned cash to the second they are out of the stadium.

Some years ago, Jonathan Chapman, son of current BSPA chairman Keith, was heavily involved in King’s Lynn but something of a loose cannon who disappeared almost as quickly as he arrived. But I can’t remember any track that attracted more teenagers than the Stars did during his spell at Saddlebow Road. There was a buzz about the place. A youthful buzz.

3

A pioneering party that will visit and interact with the leaders of other professional sports, administrators who have turned their sport around. Find out how they did it.

I can quote one example from my own experience – ice hockey. A generation ago, that sport was on its knees and heading nowhere. Today, Sheffield can attract a crowd of 9,500 for an Elite League match; Nottingham have more than 5,000 fans at virtually all their home games.

A top-flight Elite League match is a night out and whereas, at one time, the audience at an ice hockey game was virtually the same as at a speedway meeting, today’s ice hockey crowd is young, vibrant and family orientated.

4

A speedway brand – and by that, I don’t mean another new logo. An actual brand so that a night out at Eastbourne should look similar to a night out at Poole. Track staff dressed the same at Armadale as at Foxhall Heath. Communal advertising on the air-fence, on the centregreen.

A collective bargaining scheme to share advice, suppliers, etc. Bulk buying will reduce costs for everyone and, in time, that saving should be reflected in the admission charges.

Elsewhere in this issue, Tomasz Lorek gives an insight into Polish speedway and the revenue figures he details will bring tears to any British promoter. If it can happen in Poland, why can’t it happen in Britain?

5

A Chief Executive or Executive Committee, appointed from outside the current promoters, to govern the sport and adjudicate on all matters appertaining to what happens on the track.

How often do you read fans’ complaints that a decision was made for the benefit of one club and the detriment of another? That is always going to happen when the people making those decisions are also promoters.

Mostly, the accusations are ill-founded but there has to be far more transparency. It has often been promised but never really introduced.

There are, if you believe initial statements, three or four ongoing investigations that haven’t produced any public decisions. Like the cancellation of Eastbourne’s National League match against Mildenhall the other week.

6

Stricter control of what happens on and off the track.

How can a professional sport justify incomplete league tables, for instance? Or allow a competition that started the season to run its final on what was effectively, the last day of the campaign?

How can a league match take place after the champions have already paraded their trophy?

How can a previously announced shared event – the Premiership Pairs and National League Fours, anyone? – simply be dropped from the calendar without any explanation or apology to those supporters who might have looked to book days off work to go?

How can fixtures be called off because of football’s World Cup, a competition where the dates were known well before any speedway fixture was logged?

7

The appointment of a social media guru to take the sporting world by storm and ensure that every club in the country is able to engage and interact with its fans, throughout the week and especially at meetings.

Social media – Twitter, Facebook, etc. – is not just a news platform but can also be a massive spinner. The most successful bring in six-figure revenues. The work that Italian football club AS Roma have done with their social media accounts is mind-blowing, simply by thinking outside the box.

November 10, 2018 speedway star 3

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