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Saddened by Newport Closure
By Dudley Jones

Newport Speedway

I was hugely saddened by the news that Newport are not to race in 2012.

The recent promotion has done so much to improve the track, and the experience, at Newport, and deserved to be well supported.

Speedway seems to survive using here today and gone tomorrow riders whose cost seems far to exceed gate takings.

Is it not time to take stock, and ask what draws supporters to speedway, and what could be done to retain them.

Many tracks appear to do little to get local publicity, and there seem to be no Johnnie Hoskins and Len Silvers out there making the experience memorable with stunts and capers and in so doing 'bonding' with supporters.

Jolly/Lee and Louis have shown what can be done with a failed track at Mildenhall. The video clips appear to show healthy support so soon after a debacle in 2010.

I would suggest that we nurture home grown talent, instead of shipping in costly foreigners, limit numbers of these (if we are allowed by our Euromasters).

Positively encourage local heroes, and keep the core of team riders over several years. Speedway should be a family, where riders and supporters identify with each other.

Have a regular race night, so supporters can arrange their lives around regular attendance.

In my days supporting Norwich, West Ham, Rayleigh and later Ipswich I organised my life (as much as possible) about the respective race nights (Saturday, Tuesday, Sunday and Thursday respectively). I identified with the teams and being there each week was not only a habit but a must for me.

Befriend the local press, and issue press releases as often as possible.

I have to confess that, in the last decade, I have not been a regular supporter, but ironically the improvements at Newport last year made me intend to go regularly this year.

If a team races regularly (the same day most weeks), has a good competitive racing strip, makes the supporter feel he or she belongs, builds continuity into the team, has race jackets that shout out the team colours and can be seen from the terraces, has a 'cheeky chappy' announcer and keeps things moving then they ought to be able to prosper.

Sadly I believe Newport were getting close to these aspirations, and hope that everything will be done to get them back into speedway.

 

This article was first published on 26th February 2012


 

  • Philip Dalling:

    "I would like to add my personal regrets to Dudley Jones' feelings of sadness at the demise of Newport. I worked for the South Wales Argus newspaper in Newport in the early 70s. The crowds at Somerton Park by that time may have been smaller than the massive attendances in the 60s, but still seemed pretty healthy. I visited the new track about eight or nine years ago and there seemed a reasonable attendance at that stage. Watching was comfortable from the grandstand. I do agree with Dudley's other comments. I also recall a visit in the recent past to Rye House. Len Silver is a shining example of really promoting the sport and working the crowd. So few people really know how to do it these days. I was also impressed by Dick Barrie's performance on the centre green at Somerset last summer, when he visited with, I think, Berwick. Speedway is primarily entertainment, and desperately needs its showmen."

  • John Fray:

    "Dudley is so right about each track having a regular race night and a good promoter who believe in the power of publicity in the local press to attract the crowds. If you want a good crowd any promotion has to put in hard work to achieve it.

    My track, Oxford, for too long suffered from promoters that only turned up on the day with little effort put into publicity prior to the meeting during seasons when the race night was constantly being changed with some weeks no racing at all. They relied on free publicity the night before the meeting from the local newspapers. They didn't bother with poster around the town or any publicity that would cost money. I am told that one promotor refused the sale of the Speedway Star at the track and even fell out with Oxford's local radio which aired a weekly speedway programme that was winning industry awards. Real effort if it had to be paid for was in short supply. The tracks decline under such circumstances was due to the lack of positive promotion. Oxford still has strong support, the track is still waiting to be used it needs genuine promoters who can convince the stadiums owners that they can make it work and pay the rent.

    Equally Dudley is right that riders percieved loyalty to a club is very important, but sadly there is little evidence of it today with riders changing teams each year as well as being contracted to more than one track either in the UK or abroad during the season. Some riders, when interviewed hardly seem to care about their team, they only relate to how they are doing. I know it is professional and exspensive sport and yes they want and need to earn as much money as they can, but many supporters are disillusioned by this attitude. Team and league speedway is what sets our sport apart from other motor sports. Most of us would like to have more teams in the leagues but I suspect that the promotors who run the sport are not of the same mind they are comfortable with what they have got and do not encourage expansion.

    When we talk of the hey days of the sport we had many more teams up and down the country and as a result many more supporters it would be interesting to analyse, if we could, the way and the reasons why supporters attended the tracks in the past. I suspect that such was the interest and the reason why attendance was so high was because they were all keen to see as much racing as possible on the different tracks. Enthusiasm feed on enthusiasm especially with all the tracks in London. That said I am very sorry that Newport has closed and my heart goes out to all their supporters, but don't give up there is always a chance that you will get back on track. If one of us wins the Euro Millions lottery who knows what would happen!!"

  • Ivan Blacka:

    "It makes everybody sad when another track closes. We need to be opening more tracks not closing them. Let's face it Speedway is a great spectator sport. I cannot understand why Football get's so much coverage. Speedway is just as exciting if not more exciting. It's because Football is on the TV from morning till night and we are all brain washed with it. Don't get me wrong I like Football too but Speedway deserves it chance too."

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