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A Speedway Revolution
By Robert J. Rogers

There is a suggestion on the Lakeside Fan Forum of the Hammers dropping down a Division next year to the Premier League.

This has some advantages:

A) A Full season, none of these large gaps with no racing.
B) More local derbies with teams such as Rye House and Ipswich, as Eastbourne could hardly be classed as 'Local', just 'nearest'.
C) First call on riders as we now seem to take second place to the Premier teams in any case.
D) Some fans say they will only watch Elite Racing, well having seen a few matches at Rye House, and the Premier Fours at Peterborough, there is certainly nothing wrong with PL racing!

But let's be 100% controversial, let's have a Revolution in the Sport, DISPAND the Elite League! Go back to the British League, with all teams together and that each team must have one Grand Prix/Top flight rider riding for them, that way the fans can still see the likes of Harris, Holder, Watt.

The argument would of course be that some riders then would only ride for the Swedish and Polish Leagues because of the Money, but this would show which riders are interested in the sport and the fans, and those only interest in the Money. Again with more teams and more matches, it may be that the riders would indirectly make more by staying in Britain as they would not have the cost of flying backwards and forwards, plus not having to have a base in each county and keeping different Bikes in various parts of the World.

Let's be more controversial, let's make it compulsory that each team carries a Junior Squad, which would race each week. A lot of Clubs have a Curfew, but to counteract this problem, let's start all matches at 19-30, revert to 13 heats, as apart from any serious incidents there is no reason why a 13 heat match cannot be completed in two hours, allowing 30mins for a Four Heat Junior match as a second Half.

The point has been raise by some Juniors that it is a long way to come for just a few rides, but with every club having Juniors, there would be a lot more 'Local' clubs for the Lads, plus a guarantee of rides each week.

National League Clubs, with some clubs struggling over cost of the sport, a few teams may want to drop to the National League, and again it should be made compulsory that a British League Club 'adopts' a National League Squad, with say for an argument that Ipswich, Lakeside and Rye House adopt the same club, this will then help to bring up Youngster to support the Future of the Sport (there of course would be an argument if a good youngster did come up which one of the three parent clubs would he ride for!)

The sport then would have a Junior club (which does not have to have the same name as the main club, but could use a name of a local area, which may in turn encourage more fans to follow their Local club, a fine example was a few years ago when Poole had a second club they called 'Bournemouth)'.

Good juniors like Jack Kingston of Lakeside could then move on to the National League, and if continues to improve then on back to his Parent British League Club, Lakeside, which would mean that the sport could start to create its own stars of the Future and not have to rely on riders from other Countries (there is nothing to stop Swedish and Polish clubs doing the same thing, with perhaps their National League clubs being from another Country, for example Sweden could embrace clubs from Finland and Norway, encouraging the sport in other parts of the world) while we also support as we have done since day one of the sport back in 1928, Australians, New Zealand, and even the odd America n and Canadian!

Sky Sports could still film matches, but this would give them more Variety instead of the same clubs nearly each week which in turn would give better coverage, and may encourage more people to go and watch the sport that may not realise that they have a Local Club (which in turn may encourage more to buy a SkyTV package which I am sure will light up the eyes of a few Sky Executives!)

Finally, yes I know it is easy for me just to sit at home and spout' Revolution', the sport and these implications are far more involved with cost etc, plus all this would not happen overnight, it would need a 'Five Year Plan', also as you would need to find at least three youngsters for each Junior team, you may well have to encourage the Sport of Cycle Speedway which could be held in Local parks (or even School teams, again perhaps attached to a local club) to get children interested to find these, plus the full support of the BSPA, FIM and the fans willingness to support teams which for the first few years may Struggle, but who knows, this may create a far healthier Speedway world for the Future.

I will now go and find my tin hat and wait for the flak, but remember although somebody invented the wheel once, if we had not tried changes, speedway bikes would have stone wheels!

 

This article was first published on 16th September 2012


 

  • Chris Stockwell:

    "What an absolutley STONKINGLY, BRILLIANT IDEA!!!! Robert. But don't stop there while you're at it get rid of these RIDICULESS END OF SEASON PLAYOFFS AND THE BARMY POINTS SCORING SYSTEM FOR MATCHES. All that is needed is 3PTS FOR A WIN, 1PT FOR A DRAW AND 1PT FOR AN AGGREGATE VICTORY. All Individual meetings raced over 20 heats and the RIDER with most pionts over 5 rides is declared the winner. That's been the trouble with SPEEDWAY over the past 20 odd years forever changing rules and regulations. Haven't the Powers that be never heard of IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T MEND IT!! Now I'll had my own idea, no FOREIGN riders is the National Lea gue. Brits only. Thats how England ruled the Speedway world in the 70's Division II riders coming up through the ranks, onto the World Stage. Now Robert, the hard part, convince the people who run the sport. DON'T LET THIS IDEA DIE!! Iam sure along with a lot of other supporters and I bet riders are all for this IDEA."

  • Alan Robertson:

    "I agree with a lot of what Robert Rogers has posted. I have always felt the solid strcture speedway needs is the return to the old 13 heat format. Rebuild the sport by reverting to the 13 format, it stood the test of time and would cut off two heats from struggling clubs' wage bills. I don't know if the idea of a junior league will work - didn't we have similar in the late-80s/early 90s? I agree with having one big league.

    Brought up on big leagues back in the 70s, I really enjoyed the mid-nineties revival. Nothing is as boring as seeing the usual sides on tv every other week. Who wants to see repeat matchs two or three times a year. At least a bigger league, as Robert Rogers' piece hints, would give more variety - and more variety could even mean persuading stay away fans to attend their local track more often. Less visits would mean less chance of seeing the likes of Holder and Ward, which would make local fans wanna stump up their hard-earned cash when they did arrive in town. "

  • Fred Taylor:

    "I agree, for me to move forward, the Elite should have a fuller programme and for clubs to remain competitve adopting a Polish style squad system where a team could name 3 no 1's but only use one, this would save on guests and rider replacement being used, as many riders are overcommitted anyway. So yes a revolution is in order, some say this may not be financially viable, as Poland gets far bigger crowds that here, riders should accpet if they cannot fully commit, the clubs should be able to contract them on an as and when contract, say a small retainer with an arrangement whereby excpenses are covered and the rider earns his wages by points scored, with may of the top racers coming over here have their flights paid for and have 'hired' help to look after their bikes whilst they jet around the world, I am sure together promoters and riders could work something out instead of letting the sport die. I agree the Elite League needs to be week in week out, hence the reason why fans and clubs are opting for the Premier as an alternative. "

  • Andrew Shaw:

    "Some very thought provoking comments here. I think everyone agrees that the Elite League is Elite only in name and in need of drastic overhaul. Having watched speedway at all three levels, I personally feel that the more consistently entertaining racing is provided at PL and NL level. My suggestion is to retain a two league structure, but to apply the following changes: - Teams in both divisions to be built to the same points limit. - A 0.25% increase/reduction on averages at the beginning of each season (i.e. a rider moving into the top division from the lower one would receive an initial reduction in average, whilst a rider moving in the opposite direction would see their average increased) - A rider represents one team only; no doubling up - Two up, two down relegation every year, decided by top/bottom four two leg play offs - Additional KO Cup competition to be introduced along the lines of the FA Cup, i.e. one-off match rather than over two legs, increasing the prospect of giant killing! Consequently, a team could define their own level of ambition according to their crowds, financial position etc.

    For example, there'd be nothing to stop an ambitious, well funded lower league side from signing a couple of top flight riders in a bid to gain promotion. Similarly, a less bouyant club could choose to remain in the lower league and cut their cloth accordingly, content with the prospect of still seeing some top riders race at their circuit - and maybe experiencing a decent cup run - without committing financial suicide. Sky could cherry pick from any match in either league, e.g. promotion/relegation issues, local derbies, David v Goliath cup match.

    I don't pretend that these suggestions present a solution to all the problems speedway has to address but I certainly believe it would add to the entertainment factor. I appreciate that teething problems would be experienced initially but it should be viewed as a long term project that could be refined in the ensuing years, not simply a quick fix that is abandoned after a year or two. And if certain top line riders choose to desert Britain for greater riches abroad then so be it. I appreciate that the career of a rider is short and can potentially end at any given time, and they have every right to make their money where and while they can. However, it would be nice to think some might show some loyalty and gratitude towards the country that gave many of them their first break when they were embarking on their careers, long before the likes of Poland and Sweden had even heard of them!"

  • Gary:

    "First Class article. I'm sure if your idea was adopted, we'd see more British riders coming through, which would be good for the sport. There are to many foreign riders in the British leagues. My local track Leicester track a token Brit in Lewis Blackbird, the reat of the team are full of Swedes,Danes and Finns. How about the new British under 19 Champion, he's Danish!? Regarding 1995/96, the only reason this didn't work was the selfishness of certain promoters who wouldn't realise riders to help equal out the strengh of all teams. If they had done so, 1995/96 seasons who have been a blueprint for a better British League. Well done Robert, I am sure there will be more people in favour of your idea than against it."

  • Neil Lacey:

    "Oh my god did I write this myself. No flack from me just 100% support."

  • Steve Baker:

    "Robert, I agree whole heartedly with your idea's as I feel if nothing is done soon our sport will just fade into oblivion. When the British League was formed in the sixties it was the sports saviour as it was slowly dying at that time. It was quite a radical step at the time, but it did rejuvenate the sport and I feel, like you, now is the time to do something similar. The only problem is, there is no one with enough backbone to actually go ahead and do something before its too late. It seems to me the BSPA make decisions not for the benefit of the sport as a whole but purely for their own clubs benefit. I think the only way forward is to put one person in charge, without any affiliation to a particular club and whatever decision is made by them, every club has to abide by it. This, I believe, could make your revolution a reallity and move the sport we all love, forw ard to a brighter future. "

  • Chris Stockwell:

    "Well reading the first of the feedback Robert, you've certainly got people on your side.(Me included) No true supporter wants to see Speedway die. As Steve Baker says we need one person in charge, without any affiliation to a particular club. Well in my opinion the man for the job would be IVAN MAUGER. He's got plenty of Backbone. The main problem would be convincing Ivan to take up the post. I don't know if Ivan reads this website, if he does it would be interesting to see if he would take on the job.

    Regarding the junior leagues (Alan Robertson) I think we still need them Alan, while kids with natural talent (Max Clegg and Oliver Greenwood come to mind) should make it, there are other riders who take time to develop and the junior leagues will help with this.

    (Gary) I'm in total agreement with you regarding the National League for British riders only. But they should be restricted to 2 or 3 seasons in that league only, then they should make the jump to the second tier of Racing (or what is now the PL) After 3 seasons a rider should be able to know that he's either going to make it or not. I think Robert as opened a can of worms and I think this whole Speedway Revolution thing is going to provoke alot more talking points over the coming weeks. I look forward to it!!"

  • Celestial Toymaker:

    "Amalgamate the leagues by all means or level things out. Keep 15 heats and bring back rider of the night format with juniors as well as per the 70's. Stop the doubling / trebling up, why does Charlie Gjedde need to double up, how many years has he ridden EL? Riders with limited experience doubling up is ok, but then the likes of Gjedde, Doyle, Nieminen, Screen etc. should pick a league and stick with it.

    I think adopting multiple team members that can be interchanged is bad, you won't encourage supporters to come if they can't see the riders they like, however, I do believe EVERY team should be forced to name a No.8 and should a team end up going down to just 5 riders, the number 8 could be called upon to ride at reserve and should have no more than a 4.00 average. Splitting up heat leaders to go around other clubs will not work it will only serve to weaken teams, it should be up to the weaker teams to strengthen not the stronger teams to weaken, if you must bring football into it, would you take the league winners of last season and make them reduce in strength to match the relegated teams ? A 46.00 point limit would allow for greater variety.

    SCRAP transfer fees, and SCRAP the idea of a Guest just for No.1 and Rider Replacement for everybody else, go back to the old system, Guest for 1, 3 or 5 - top average does not have to ride at No.1, keep R/R for 2 & 4 and lower league guests for 6 or 7 with No.8 given an opportunity at reserve.

    Does anybody remember Paul Thorp, Mike Wilding, Nigel Sparshot, Linden Warner who all rode for Birmingham in the 80's certainly didn't harm Paul Thorp did it ? or Mitch Shirra started as No.8 for Coventry in the 70's went on to become a heat leader!

    Play offs need to be adjusted, Poole have done the hard work only to lose at Play Off stage? Instead Poole get crowned League Champions, bottom 2 clubs should play off home and away to stay up, if there is a second division then those top 2 clubs play off home and away to come up, the winners of both matches remain safe, the losers play off for promotion / relegation.

    ALL clubs should field 3 British Riders, not Tai Woffindens that choose to be British, but Scott Nicholls, Chris Harris, Joe Screen and the likes at least one of which should be a Heat Leader, the other 4 can come from anywhere you like.

    Oh yea, force the tracks to grade after every 4th heat like they do in the GP instead of letting the tracks get slicker and slicker and slicker through-out the night and spend some money on track covers, limit the rain offs...... GIVE THE FANS A SAY, WITHOUT THE FANS THERE WILL BE NO SPEEDWAY INSTEAD OF TREATING US LIKE WE DONT MATTER, ASK THE FANS WHAT THEY THINK ?????"

  • Andy Buckley-Taylor:

    "The reply that stated Tai Woffinden chose to be British. Fact check, born in Britain to British parents! How much more British can you get? If I emigrated to say USA, would that make my eight years old son American in say ten years? Absolutely not! "

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