Core Values Required
I agree with Robert Rogers that there is a need for change, and believe this essential unless the sport is to contract, perhaps irreparably.
However, I do not believe that the 'one big league' idea as expressed is good for the sport.
Frankly it frightens me just how few faces there are on the terraces. One only has to look back for pictures of tracks of the 60's and seventies (particularly those that were then considered marginal in terms of support), to see how many more actually went along then.
I don't knock the Elite League, but it does seem to me that only a few of the sides can actually afford a team capable of challenging for honours.
At the other end there is the National League, where only about four teams are 'real', as opposed to teams run by higher league clubs. It would be a lot healthier with more 'real' sides.
I would suggest that we do have a larger top tier, by adding the better supported members of the Premier League.
Then strengthen the National League with the remainder of the present PL teams.
Doing this would create somewhat bigger leagues, but that wont in itself turn things round.
We need to get to 'core values'
Personally I think that the old 13 heat format with a second half had some merit. Some would say that the 'second half' was pointless, I would say that it did two things. First it gave outings to juniors, second 'rider of the night' knockouts gave a chance for home team stars (and away ones), to race against each other. Nominated rider heats were a good innovation.
I think the current points system is a great improvement over years ago.
Back in the 50s, 60s, and later there were attempts to limit 'foreign' riders. This was both good and bad, the odd overseas star rider added colour and could fill injury places. What I do not understand is why some teams today are literally full of overseas riders. It seems that there are far too many foreign 'no hopers' pottering around for the odd point at huge cost. There should be a limit. Two per team would be good (not counting Australians, New Zealanders, etc.)
British national teams would be stronger if more opportunities for local hopefuls were provided. Tracks like Ipswich and Poole of years ago were all the better for being like family teams.
Engaging the Paying Supporters
The fans vitally need to bond with the team they support.
Supporting each week is a habit - so we must have regular race nights and racing at least most weeks. I suggest a nominated regular race night and a second choice night when fixtures clash.
Supporters need to have a team with some history. Changing the whole side each year (or even more often) is not a good way of keeping the support base.
In most sports there are rules for team colours. Speedway should require large team logos on the front of jackets. There needs to be strong bond created with supporters. Bees must clearly be Bees, not 'exides' or whatever.
Perhaps most importantly we need showmen promoters. Going to the speedway should be like visiting a mush loved member of the family. We need a big welcome each week and to achieve this we need 'cheeky chappy' announcers, who are not too reverent, together creating excitement and a sense of belonging.
We need tracks that are racey and well prepared, fair to visiting riders.
Grand Prix, etc.
I recognise that there may be financial benefits to the Grand Prix system, but World Championship it isn't. The system only includes a tiny sample of admittedly top riders, but the cost in terms of disruption to domestic racing arrangements and probably loss of support on the terraces, is huge. By all means retain the GP, but run a knock world championship alongside - more interest and more revenue.
Call them the GP World Championship and the Knockout World Championship.
At the end of the day its all about clubs engaging with and then retaining support. We might do worse than cloning Len Silver and allocating one to each club for starters.
Dudley Jones (Ipswich, Mildenhall, hopefully Norwich (and Dudley of course!!) supporter)
This article was first published on 7th October 2012
" by Re this comment by Dudley Jones: Grand Prix, etc. "I recognise that there may be financial benefits to the Grand Prix system, but World Championship it isn't. The system only includes a tiny sample of admittedly top riders, but the cost in terms of disruption to domestic racing arrangements and probably loss of support on the terraces, is huge. By all means retain the GP, but run a knock world championship alongside - more interest and more revenue. Call them the GP World Championship and the Knockout World Championship." - Dudley Jones (Ipswich, Mildenhall, hopefully Norwich (and Dudley of course!!) supporter). ::::: My view: This is only looking at things from a British perspective. Speedway's Grand Prix is an international competition under FIM sanction. They look after the majority of federated countries - not just British needs. So, as after as Dudley's comments are concerned - sadly "not a chance of ever going to fruition"."
" I have enjoyed reading the comments of folk like Dudley Jones over the last few w eeks as for me they sum up the fact that speedway has lost its mojo and is in very great danger of never recovering it. I don't necessarily go along with everything that has been suggested in recent excellent articles but what is abundantly clear is that there is a need for change, and quickly-sitting on hands and doing nothing is not an option!
I have been following speedway for over 45 years now and know what? This year I didn't go to a single meeting. Why? Because I'm bored with it. Same old, same old, and it's getting more expensive every year. I'm bored with the Grand Prix because in essence it's the same bunch of riders being parachuted into a different venue every couple of weeks, much prefer the excitement of a knockout type of competition which gives the chance of an upset and, let's be honest here, the ONLY chance of a British winner in the foreseeable future. I'm bored with the same few teams getting coverage on Sky in front of ever decreasing crowds and at the r isk of sounding like an old fogey (guilty, M'lud) a return to the old 13 heat formula and a second half would at least open up SOME opportunity for younger and junior riders to come through the system.
While I grudgingly accept that the new match points system introduced in the last couple of years has worked, speedway is rapidly becoming an Elitist (sorry for the pun) sport enjoyed by those real enthusiasts who can afford it, and on that basis the patient, if not already at the critical stage, will soon be on life support if urgent surgery is not carried out, and I'm not hanging around to watch a favourite relative slowly expire."
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