The fans say
BY common assent, speedway is at a crossroads. Worrying? Maybe, if the sport takes the wrong road – or continues down the same road.
But speedway has been at the same crossroads before. My first meeting was at the end of the 1963 season, when I was aged eight and the ‘writing was on the wall’.
In 1964, there were seven top tier clubs (one in East Anglia, one in the North and the rest in the Midlands and the South), 12 in the second tier (two in Scotland, one in Wales, three in the South and the rest in the Midlands and the North).
Look familiar? Let’s heed the history lesson: we have not got time to waste reinventing the wheel. In 1965, the two divisions merged, with just one of the potential 19 clubs not joining the British League.
The sport recovered and grew in strength but there was no doubling up, no fixed race-nights.
Speedway always had (and I believe still has) an encouraging amount of ‘super fans’.
With top tier racing six days a week, many were able to take in far more meetings in a season than it is possible to do now, swelling attendance figures.
The product remains essentially strong. However, the marketing of it is currently weak and the regulations incomprehensible and inconsistent year on year. Where is the medium to long-term strategy?
Some immediate changes should be made, perhaps two heat leaders, two second strings and two reserves in six-man teams, with a 40-point limit.
Heat leaders anything over eight points, second strings between five and eight, reserves up to five.
Maybe eight-man squads to reduce excessive and enforced guest appearances and rider replacement. A return to the time where teams agree that absences on each side should ‘cancel’ out the need for guests in each team, would not go amiss.
Formula 1 is now benefitting from a new compact three-man leadership team, comprising a former successful team principal/owner with trophies to show, and a marketing/commercial expert under the leadership of an independent CEO.
It is time to take the sport’s management into the 21st century and with somebody like Matt Ford looking for a new challenge, perhaps a ready-made speedway Ross Brawn candidate exists? Now we just need a Barry Hearn...
As the saying goes, ‘threat is an opportunity’. It needs to be grasped: doing nothing is not an option.
AT the beginning of each season, the fans have to get used to their new team line-up, following the musical chairs that takes place due to the points limit.
At the end of each season, the match points difference between the top and bottom teams is substantial. How can the points limit be said to be working?
In days gone by, on many occasions, maybe five or six riders ended a season and began the next, with the same team, great for the riders and for the fans.
Riders are often penalised by improving their averages and, in some cases, do themselves out of getting a team spot.
I expect the argument, if the points limit were abolished, is that you would end up with chequebook speedway. I honestly don’t think that would happen. A debate would be good.
Fantastic crowds in Poland, excellent in Sweden, I have my own opinion as to why. What would be interesting is to hear the forthright views of riders who ride here and in those two countries.
36 speedway star November 10, 2018
Speedway’s undeniably ageing demographic is just one area of concern that needs to be addressed if the sport is to remain viable. BRIAN BURFORD ponders the options
THE FUTUR E S P E E D W A Y OF Special
OBIASZ Musielak is no stranger to post-meeting press conferences in the Legends’ Lounge at Swindon.
T ISAAC Curtis is nine-years-old and,
A popular rider who comes from the speedway-mad city of Leszno, as he sits behind the table looking out at the audience, he notices that mostly mature faces are staring back at him.
“I don’t see many young faces,” he remarks, “and that’s a big problem.”
Indeed it is. It would be fair to say that British speedway recognises its predominantly mature demographic but we are now living in the digital age and it is the young ones, both on the track and on the terraces, what some call Generation Z, who will inherit speedway and shape its future.
What does the sport need to do to attract their generation in greater numbers and keep them coming back?
according to his father, whenever he returns home on a Thursday, he discovers that his son has already ripped open the envelope and taken his dad’s copy of this magazine – see we’re getting them young! He lives in Kenilworth and his local track was Coventry.
“All of my friends don’t know anything about speedway and when I talk about it they don’t really understand or care much,” he says.
“They all talk about football and some about rugby. I took one friend with me to Coventry a few years ago, he thought it was fun, but now they have shut down and I only went to Cardiff this year with my dad, which was epic. They need to encourage kids to go and not just older people, so that they become fans and eventually when they grow up, they can take their children. Also they