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We Can Have Our Cake and Eat It
By Dudley Jones

Doesn't Appeal to Everyone

I was interested in the SGP attendance figures on Jeff Scott's Blog.

As you may recall I have written on the matter of the old knockout championship, and my preference for the old system.

I was shocked at how low SGP combined attendances are. I would describe those stated as 'less than two Wembleys full'.

I had always imagined that the incentive to have this competition was many more attendees over the year. I suppose the TV rights amount to much more than the one-off championship would, but then again, would they?

With the old system the one off, on the night, World Championship would surely be a substantially bigger draw than any individual SGP. However, to get to the final under the old system required quite a number of qualifying rounds, and the later ones would be big crowd, and viewer, pullers in their own right.

'The national finals, the Scandinavian final, the European Final, etc., surely the interest of these would outweigh just another round of the SGP circus. Why? - because there would be the mix of the great and the upcoming, the old hands and the rising stars, the surprises from the earlier rounds, and the fact that everyone gets a chance, the uncertainty of it all, the excitement of knowing that its all about each meeting, score on the night or you are out.

I used to find even the local rounds, mixing the different levels of the sport, bringing new names to my track, quite a draw, and the British Final, European Final, etc. irresistable. I never missed one held at Wembley or Bradford after I became a supporter in 1962.

The SGP at Cardiff (where I work and where I can get to by train almost to the stadium in 30 or so minutes)? Never interested me - its just a circus for an elite.

How many worthy would-be world champions never got a chance to achieve greatness, because of SGP? Those who excel 'on the night' but don't favour the summer long circus, or simply those 'whose year it is'.

I watch SGP if broadcast, but I am not impressed. One, last year I think, was so poor that I switched off when the first, ten I think, races were won from the same gate.

Happily, we could 'have our cake and eat it'. Not only that but we could increase television interest.

Let us re-introduce the old knock out championship - to find the 'World Champion' and retain SGP to find the 'World Grand Prix Champion', 'World Series Champion' or even 'World Masters Champion'?

More interest, both factions catered for, more revenue - a win-win solution.

 

This article was first published on 11th March 2010


 

  • Geoff Langley:

    "My heart is very much with Dudley Jones thoughts on a single meeting World Final along with the GP's, but my head says no. Firstly, how are all these Qualifying rounds going to be fitted in with an already busy GP and WTC schedule? Secondly is a British round going to excite the crowds? Not if the British Championship of recent is anything to go by, with Premier League riders there to make the number up. The riders that brought the British Final alive in the old days were the likes of Briggs, Mauger and Moore. The only way to spice up a British Final would be to re-open it to Commonwealth riders like Holder, Crump and Adam Shields, then you get people complaining that its not a "British" final. And where is this single meeting World Final going to be held? If the complaint about the GP's is processional racing on slick tracks what reason is there to believe the track would be any different at World Final? It would probably be in one of the very stadiums that now stage a GP. Assuming interested countries staged the World Final in rotation it means that we would get one at Cardiff perhaps once every 5 years if we were lucky. Is that really what people want? And when we had one in England would it be sufficient to fill Cardiff as well as the GP or would economics mean that fans would have to chose one or the other? Nobody loved the old style World Final more than I did and I would give anything to go back to the days of Briggo winning his six Britsh Finals at West Ham and Wimbledon but we have to accept that times have changed. Its still speedway and I still love it, but it is different now and we cannot turn the clock back however much we would like to."

  • Chris Stockwell:

    "I read this article with great interest, and I must agree with Dudley, I much prefer the one off World Final, am very anti GP as this totally destroyed the excitment of the World Championship. I am also convinced that the loss of the one off World Final has greatly hurt the chance of this country producing an Individual World Champion. As Dudley states certain riders could produce a brilliant performance on one night, one rider who springs instantly to mind is SCOTT NICHOLLS, time and again SCOTT has proved he can mix it and beat the best in Individual Meetings. I'm also sure that if the one off World Final was still being staged Tony Rickardsson, wouldn't have got within sniffing distance of IVAN MAUGER'S SIX WORLD TITLES."

  • Bill Elliot:

    "Couldn't agree more with Dudley Jones' piece about having a Grand Prix Series as well as an old style World Championship. Even when we were at Cardiff last year we were surrounded by empty seats and I just don't think the current format does the sport justice. It's stale and repetitive and by all means keep it if there is enough demand, but on this site alone over the past few months there seems to have been an overwhelming desire for a return to the "old" format-maybe too, if we got a return to the "old" format, another innovation might be to (re) introduce shale to the tracks! 30 years and more ago we relied on occasional pieces in the speedway press to keep us advised of who was coming through the local rounds, surely now, with the facility for global coverage, there is an opportunity for Sky to transmit some of these rounds?"

  • Ross Dow:

    "Dudley's suggestion would be brilliant if it was workable - the main problem being how to fit in all of the meetings (qualifiers and British Final are already held but higher level qualifiers (Overseas / European Finals etc) which would involve the top guys who will already have the GPs, World Cup and league championships (in various countries) on their minds. Also, from a financial perspective, one system would attract the already scarce sponsorship at the cost of the other. Most fans would only go to only one due to the cost of travel, hotels and admission so you could end up with two poorly attended meetings Like Dudley, I saw quite a number of world finals - some fabulous, some a complete waste of money. Unlike Dudley, although initially sceptical, I was prepared to give the GPs a chance and, oddly enough, have found that some have been fabulous and some a complete waste of money. His point regarding riders not getting a chance is valid and, possibly, the qualification process should be re-examined in that regard. Too often riders who have not 'cut the mustard' at the GPs have been given chance after chance without any qualifying requirement being met. Overall, the main attraction of the GP at Cardiff is that British fans are guaranteed a major meeting every year. If we were to revert to the 'one off' system we may only have the meeting once every 8 or 10 years. On the fairness point, many talented riders missed their chance of glory due to having an unfortunately timed injury and being unable to compete in qualifying rounds. At least in the GP series missing one meeting through injury need not end a rider's chances for the whole year."

  • S Faulkner:

    "I agree with the authors comments, I believe the old system of a world final on a one off basis provided much more excitement the the SGP series. "

  • Emma Somers:

    "I think the GP's are the best way to decide whos the world's best rider, although I did enjoy the one finals, but they definitely need tweaking! The number of GP rounds is excessive and can lead to it getting repetitive if like most season one rider builds up a huge lead. Also Ole Olsen's tracks are too slick and therefore not conducive to good racing a lot of the time. The qualification system is ludicrous. Riders go through qualifying rounds for the next season, how crazy is that? I've also never been a fan of seeding riders through. Surely the best way to decide who rides in the GP's is on the track then theres no argument. I believe that every rider competing in League speedway should have the opportunity to try and be world champion.

    My blueprint for the qualifying rounds and the GP's are as follows: Only 6 GP's. Featuring the top 6 from last years GP, 2 World semi final winners, 1 permanant seed from the riders who don't qualify, one wildcard per round and 6 from a resurrected GP challenge which was a great do or die meeting that was scrapped for some crazy reason.

    The Qualifying rounds would go as follows: 4 World Quarter finals all on the same weekend, featuring 16 riders in each round. Top 8 qualify for the semi final. 2 World semi finals on the same weekend featuring the top 8 qualifiers from the Q finals. The 2 winners of the world semi finals go straight into the GP. The next 7 go into the GP challenge. The GP challenge would feature the riders who came 2nd to 8th in both semi finals + the 7th placed rider from last years GP and the current World under 21 champion. The 6 round GP would start after the qualifying rounds have been completed in July and run to the end of October or November if a round was to be staged in America or the far East/Australia.

    Having 6 rounds would ensure the GP's didn't get to drawn out and riders would be closer in terms of points. In the UK, qualifying rounds could start at NL level leading up to British Quarter final, semi and then the British final which would be the qualifier for the World Quarter finals. I used to enjoy the old premliminary rounds before they were finally phased out by the start of the 21st century. You could certainly say that there's been a distinct lack of variety in recent years particularly in the EL. Restoring Qualifying rounds as well as test matches would go a long way to aleviate this!"

  • Anonymous:

    "Some interesting comments, firstly on Scott Nicholls. Sure he has {or had} the ability to get a rostrum placing but also would he have qualified each year as his form has always been up and down on the international stage. Remember there wasn't seeding as there is now so he possibly wouldn't have had as many years in the finals. I also doubt Tony Rickardsson would have won 6 one off finals but he made the most of the system available and was, like Ivan the best and it is really impossible to compare the 2 formats. I do however feel because of the professionalism of the modern rider there is much more chance for different winners in the GP rounds. If you look at the world finals it is a select few who won and while the same can be said for the SGP winner the beauty of the series is that it throws up varied round winners { ie in the same vain as those shock merchants who grabbed a World Final rostrum }. Even when the series has been decided before the last round has it diminished the appeal of the final round. NO we still all look forward to it to see who grabs which final placing and also of course the round winner. I loved the one off Final but as I have said before the SGP has saved World Championship Speedway and we should embrace it and it's champion.......Go Greg Hancock....2010 World Champion............"

  • Bill Elliot:

    "Have read some of the comments about a dual World Championship/Grand Prix season not working and I completely disagree-fact is, if it's financially viable to do both, it can and will happen. Too many of the regular Grand Prix troupe don't deserve to be there each season (one of the best 16 in the world in any given year? I don't think so!) and there is no meaningful way of replacing them. If a rider is having the season of his life and makes it through the qualifying rounds all the way to the final then he has every right to be there and deserves the chance to make it happen-in a person's chosen sport, surely in any given year they must have the right to get as far as they can in the level of competition they are in and if that means competing in the "World Final" that year then so be it. You can't always talk about "average performances", you must also be able to talk about people performing outside the norm and that is what a "one off" annual World Championship allows for."

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