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Paul Emmick's Point of View
8th February 2007

MaugerNielsen

I can't help thinking the BSPA have got things wrong with the new Super7even series. A key part of the plan sees the various shared events (ELRC, Premier Fours etc) moving to neutral venues in order to provide a level playing field. I'm not convinced that's the way forward. These events need to attract decent attendances or they become seriously devalued, the best way to ensure a healthy crowd is to attract those that live closest to the track. This means the meeting has to be attractive to the regular fans at the circuit, what better way than giving them home advantage and therefore a better than average chance of winning a national trophy?

How many Peterborough fans, used to the far-superior Elite League product, will turn out to watch the Premier League Fours final? Compare that to the attitude of the fans at Stoke, they'd turn out in great numbers because they'd fancy their team's chances of winning the competition. It will be interesting to see whether we return to the status quo in 2008.


Marketing speedway as a whole must be a fairly difficult endeavour, simply because the product varies so wildly from venue to venue. Some tracks offer a real quality evening's entertainment that can genuinely match anything else available in the local region. Sadly some others simply don't measure up. Many tracks I've visited offer little in the way of facilities for spectators and/or have a badly prepared track. Surely it's not too much to expect that a speedway can provide some kind of covered seating, edible food and a number of decent races? In my experience it does seem to be too much to expect and I now simply refuse to visit some circuits.

If I, as a committed speedway fan, feel this way then how do newcomers feel and what impression does it create of the sport as a whole? Does a badly run show at track A affect the business of track B through association and word of mouth? I suspect so and it's time something was done about it. We need to adopt a 'survival of the fittest' approach if the sport is ever to progress. Strict new criteria should be applied to all speedways and any that fail to match up should have their licence revoked. I can immediately think of five or six candidates for closure. If that eased the rider shortage at the remaining venues then all the better.


Speedway's perennial "who was the greatest?" debate has always amused me. For the last year or two it's centred around only two men - Mauger or Rickardsson? Quite wrong in my opinion, they've certainly won the most World Championships but that doesn't necessarily mean they were the best riders of all time. I'd undoubtedly place Mauger above Rickardsson simply because he won his titles under a system that offered far less margin for error. Mauger dominated the sport for a long spell but he'd only be third in my all-time list and Rickardsson would be eighth.

No, for me Hans Nielsen was the greatest speedway rider of all time. He rode consistently well over many seasons and rarely, if ever, was less than brilliant. He didn't win a world title until 1986, partly due to the brilliance of Erik Gundersen and Bruce Penhall, but I feel mainly because it took him until then to realise just how good he was and to adjust his mental approach accordingly. His consistency was unequalled and he would have won many more World Titles under a Grand Prix system, as demonstrated by his win in 1995 when he was a few summers past his best. I don't think it's too outlandish to suggest he'd have won eight or nine titles had the new system been introduced earlier.

So, if Hans was the best, who was second best? No question, it was Barry Briggs. 'Briggo' was an amazing rider whose longevity at top probably surpassed anybody else's in the post-war era. He won his fair share of titles and did it all with a style and panache that few could match. When Barry was at his best he was untouchable and in my view a better rider than Mauger. In case you're wondering, the others I'd place above Rickardsson are Fundin, Moore, Penhall and Craven.

 

This article was first published on 8th February 2007


 

  • Keith Burrows:

    "Paul Emmick certainly has a different opinion to me, and to many others I feel. Greatest ever rider Hans Neilsen????, he was a one trick pony, and that trick was getting out of the gate. Could anyone name any great Neilsen passes that didn't involve the rider being passed coming to grief?

    Whilst I would agree that some stadia leave a lot to be desired, I am sure that the supporters at that track would rather have a track than not have one whatever the facilities. Personal circumstance tell me that. The rider shortage can be solved by the usual points limit method if the promoters wanted to solve it.

    The new super7eries is a great initiative but people seem keen to rubbish it 3 months prior to a wheel being turned, we all know that these events can be financially disasterous without a base attendance and the creation of the series tries to address that. The example of the Premier League Fours at Peterboro is not really valid as The Showground has been that events traditional home for many years, and unless I'm mistaken was (and will be) well attended by travelling fans. This development deserves praise not criticism at this stage. No wonder promoters dont try many new things if this is the sort of response they get! "

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