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The Cost of Watching Speedway

Some comments on the cost of watching the sport have been recently received through our feedback column. We decided these points would make more sense as a single article than scattered through many of our weekly updates. Your thoughts on the comments made are, as ever, more than welcome.

Dudley Jones

It seems to me that the Elite League is in serious trouble, with Oxford folding, Reading changing hands suddenly and talks about Peterborough seeing the season through. I am sure that speedway will survive, but perhaps it's time for a fundamental re-think?

I cast my mind back to my first interest in the sport, in 1962, are there parallels with today? Then Ipswich folded (the week before I first saw Norwich Stars at the Firs). Then the National League was dying on its feet (with much larger crowds), yet we had a healthy youngster in the form of the 'lower level' (but possibly more exciting), Provincial League. Surely the sport needs to take a long look, at the terraces, at costs, at entertainment. I dont think its about admission costs, football is often much more per head. Let us have more local riders brought on, less commuting abroad, and much more showmanship.

A radical idea - go 'provincial' again, to the roots. Only have foreigners if they ride only for British teams (same for home grown riders) maybe drop out of SGP and have regular race nights instead, to nurture the 'speedway habit'. Above all make speedway exciting (more basic bikes, closer racing, less costs) and a jolly good night out. Believe me, Ipswich with Louis, Davey, Lanham, etc., a politically incorrect (but very witty and lively) announcer, a great raceway and a sense of belonging and identification with the team, was magic and having to miss a Thursday night a tragedy. Perhaps time for a fundamental change, Premier League and an enlarged (and name changed) Conference League.

 

Ken Nicholson

Dudley Jones in his recent feedback compared speedway to football and came up with the conclusion that price is not the important factor in causing the declining numbers on the terraces. Football has always had a much wider appeal than speedway (being taught in schools, etc.) and as such, the number of supporters that have a high disposable income are less common amongst those that follow speedway. Even football is feeling the pinch however, and a recent survey indicated that about 1 in 8 people were not going to renew their season tickets because of cost. And the clubs most affected? The most expensive ones - the Premier League clubs.

Speedway underwent hyper-inflation a few years ago. A lot of people used to visit more than one track a week, but gradually this has become less common. Others have been more selective in the meetings they have attended. While Dudley is right that better shows would mean the supporters would be less critical and selective in their attendance of meetings, even the greatest show on earth won't attract a sell-out crowd unless they can afford it. I wholeheartedly agree with Dudley that costs must be controlled as a priority and the entertainment factor must be increased. If speedway is not both affordable and entertaining, then its days are numbered irrespective of the league structure.

 

Geoff Langley

I think the point Ken Nicholson has missed is that the best way to keep admission costs down is to increase the number of paying spectators. I think a lesson can be learned from cricket . At a lot of county matches the spectators sometimes consist of little more than a man and his dog at times but the sport keeps afloat financially by one one day games and 20/20 matches which are not exactly noted for seeing great skill but they are hugely entertaining. Could speedway not think of something like that ?

What about more handicapping in challenge matches, what happened to the mechanics races and ladies races of years ago? These sort of novelty events wont replace the serious stuff but they do help to keep the less-enthusatic supporters interested No sport took itself more seriously than cricket years ago but the carnival atmosphere of some of the modern innovations has increased support tremendously.

People have been telling me speedway is doomed for more than 40 years. I dont believe it but I do think the sport is its own worst enemy and could do a lot better. Those in charge need to stop walking with a measured step and start thinking outside the box. Sky has been a great benefit but we need to decide how to go to the next level. Simply cutting admission charges will not ,by itself ,make much difference.

 

N Woods

I was interested in the comments regarding the cost to get in to speedway meetings. It has got too expensive as a lot of people in this country do not have a high income. Do not get me wrong I love speedway, When I first went it was 40p entry and 5p for a programme or 5p for a seat. That was for 13 races and a 7 race second half. Now we get 15 races with no second half for £15 pounds entry and two pounds for a programme. Yes I know that costs have gone up but it's now too expensive for those on what is classed as low income today. When I first went a lot of the crowd were in this bracket! The support is out there, Lakeside proved this, but with the cost of living in Britain today just cannot afford today's admisson prices.

 

This article was first published on 9th August 2007


 

  • Scott Reid:

    "I think a way in bringing speedway back to the public forefront, may be to try and get some events back onto terestrial television. By putting everything on Sky, it limits the viewing numbers and certainly restricts the enjoyment. If more people were exposed to the sport, then maybe more would want to attend meetings. It worked with me way back in the 19**'s....."

  • Harry Ward:

    "Until the Promoters and others running Speedway admit that they don't understand the fans, the problems will continue to escalate.

    Unlike football, many of the spectators are like me, I attend meetings three or four times a week. Simply holding meetings on one day a week would actually cause the crowds to diminish.

    This week for example in eight days I would have seen Rye House at home three times (including conference league) and visited Poole and Arena Essex. Total cost including programmes £68.50. I would have had much enjoyment and entertainment, but unlike recent seasons I now actively pick my meetings, watching predominantly Rye House and then picking some attractive meetings. I envisage doing between 60-70 meetings this year as opposed to 80-90 in previous years.

    Before you say I am not typical, I agree this point to a degree but I do see the same old faces at many meetings. This is a direct contrast to Football supporters. I would only pay to see my beloved West Ham. I have no interest in general football.

    Now when comparing prices I saw 5 speedway meetings for £68.50 and on Saturday I will watch West Ham play for £49 including programme. To me speedway is good value but it is definitely getting more and more costly and the standard of the product, especially in the Elite League, is plunging.

    So far this season I have seen three GP's at Cardiff, Copenhagen and Prague. The cost of Cardiff in my opinion is spiralling out of control. BSI continue to claim the attendances increase year on year but I'm not too sure. It's a fantastic product but too expensive. Less so than Formula one I agree but then Silverstone could probably sell out twice over so they can charge what they like.

    As speedway fans ask yourself this...when was the last time Promoters asked you what you want? They are too busy inventing terms like 'Play the Joker'. Deciding what a great idea it is for a green helmet colour instead of white. Inventing the term 'aggregate point' instead of 'bonus point' and finally and most importantly allowing meetings such as Arena V Reading where there were more riders absent than actually at the meeting...Try selling that little beauty to new punters...Will they come back, of course not.

    we as fans need to make our voices heard before it's too late, and by the way BSPA - 'hand offs' the Premier league, it's doing ok thank you!"

  • Peter Young:

    "I hope speedway does survive all this. I think the main problem is the cost of attending speedway and the poor facilities at some of the tracks for the average fan although the corporate fan is well catered for. I feel that the speedway tracks should be updated and have good outside seating where you can watch the racing in comfort and having a great view at the same time, that's probably why the Millenium Stadium has been so popular. I've been there and you just don't miss a thing, unlike going to some or perhaps all of the club tracks you just don't get this.

    I feel that the entertainmemt is there, but I feel the tracks need to be updated and brought up to the 21st century. Football had to do this for their survival, remember the Bradford fire, Heysel and Hillsborough stadium disasters. Fortunately speedway hasn't experienced those problems, but I remember going to football matches in the 1970's and 1980's and the grounds were run down and in a poor state, the shed end at Chelsea didn't used to have toilets.

    So I say, bring in some kind of tiered seating along the start/finish straight and the back straight and keep the pit bend terraces, this might help in bringing back the fans, and still charge £15 for Elite League speedway."

  • B Wilkins:

    "I have been a stock car fan for some 35 years (a sport not always popular with speedway fans I admit) but I wholeheartedly agree with the comments of N Woods. In the past sports such as speedway and Stock Car racing were supported by travelling armies of fans who would follow their teams/drivers to whichever venue they were racing. I did so myself thinking nothing of doing 2/3 meetings a week during the season and knew some speedway friends who would follow their team all over the country. But sadly those days have long gone.

    Both sports have forgotten that they were primarily aimed at the working man and even in this so called classless society not everyone is earning the sort of income which allows unlimited money to be spent on admission and travel costs. Entry prices for Stock cars are also £15 and with petrol it now costs me £60 for two of us to go to what was always regarded by us as a local track (Coventry). I can no longer afford to do the 50 meetings a season I did some 15 years ago - and the Stock car world is, like Speedway, asking why crowds are declining! I guess we are all in the same boat as well as racing at some of the same stadiums!"

  • Mick Bratley:

    "Could I just point out that at no time has there ever been any talks about Peterborough 'seeing the season through'. Peterborough, like every league club has been hit hard by the number of postponents due to the weather causing an obvious cash flow problem for all clubs."

  • Jamie Scarrott:

    "Although the cost of watching speedway has increased, I feel we're still getting value for money compared to football. We mustn't knock Sky tv, as without their coverage, where would the sport be now? As a Long Eaton supporter, I now have to travel to watch live speedway and perhaps only get to half a dozen meetings a season. I feel the sport needs promoting more. Most of my friends didn't know it was a TEAM sport, where you actually have a team to support, as in football, rather than individual riders as per Moto GP. We need to tell Joe Public this.

    Also, changing the subject slightly, but still relating to cost. Has anyone considered the impact this government's road pricing policy may have on the sport? The riders will want paying more to cover their costs, and I certainly would think twice before leaping in the car and travelling to a meeting. I know that this is just the reaction the government want, but what about our sport?"

  • Steve Brown:

    "I agree with Harry Ward 100%. Even though I was always devoted to my beloved Dons, I would go to speedway whenever, and wherever, I could. It was nothing unusual for me to take in three or for meetings a week, and I used to love the Bank Holidays when I could take in two or three a day. As Harry said, I would see the same people at all of them! As far as the cost, it can be prohibitive, but that is not the important thing; it really is about the quality of the product. There are a number of reasons why the sport isn't what it used to be, but that's the same with everything. The real problems are the silly rules and the lack of good racing. It wouldn't matter how cheap speedway is, if the quality of racing is not there, and the atmosphere and overall entertainment value is not there, the people won't go. We have to improve the product. "

  • M Farrant:

    "I would also like to add having recently visited Poole Speedway I was disgusted at the admission prices now. Not only is it 15 pounds entry for an adult, its 2 pound a programme and an extra quid just to park the car. As a single dad paying maintenance, mortgage etc etc how the hell can one afford to carry on paying all these over inflated prices? I don't even get a payrise each year and yet the cost of everything goes up. It means searching for alternative hobbies that are less costly for my son and I. Best wishes Poole for 2009. From a former Milton Keynes Knights fan. Rip the MK Knights."

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