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Why Do They Ignore the Young?
By David Hensby

Peter Craven

A puzzling question was poised recently during a conversation between some speedway fans, "Why do riders ignore the young?"

The relationship between the rider and fan is the most important aspect of speedway racing. As speedway fans, we all have our loves and our pet hates, whom we cherish to see beaten by our home team or favorite rider. But why is it that riders do not take the time to interact with the young fans, who we are firmly reliant upon to keep the sport from sinking into extinction?

Many speedway riders seem to forget where they once stood and watched their own heroes. Where they stood patiently to get a quick look, handshake or a treasured autograph. The feelings inside of seeing their team or hero walking across the track or around the pits and wanting to speak to them but were too afraid that this icon would not speak back.

Many fond memories of speedway racing are not from the actual races, but from the characters of the sport

I was told a story about Peter Craven in 1960. One of his biggest fans at that time was a young lad who had the opportunity to grab Peter's autograph one night, but not only did he do this, he actually sat for half an hour and spoke with this young man about speedway and he own personal experiences. To this day, this guy remembers this as if it was an hour ago! A simple but, effective way of having an influence on a young child.

Today unfortunately, we see riders who do not take the time to interact with their fans, they walk pass autograph hunting kids or leave the event directly the moment their bike is loaded. This is not speedway!

We see many forums having subjects about "where the sport is going", "why clubs are having a hard time getting fans" or "Teams closing". Maybe if the riders took that extra time to interact and nurture the future of the sport, this maybe, wouldn't be a problem?

Yes, we do have excuses for this, with the invention of the internet and E-Bay, the once known pure autograph hunter, is maybe seeking a way to make a few quid by selling the autograph, or riders have to leave to ride overseas etc.. Accepted, yes. BUT this effects only maybe 1 or 2% of riders, so there is no excuse for anyone involved with speedway to ignore the fact that they can make it better, by spending a few minutes after the event interacting with their fans!

 

This article was first published on 26th July 2007


 

  • Kathleen:

    "I agree with the article. Chris Kerr, the American, of the Redcar Bears is one rider who always takes time out to meet with the fans after every race. He has taught other team members the importance of the fans. He has gone out of his way and gone to a few schools to meet with the young fans and talk about speedway. His fans love him for this and have nothing but kind words to say about him.

    Many fans aren't aware of what the riders go thru to make it in speedway. They aren't aware of the amount of money it takes to race. They don't realize the riders rely on outside sponsorship to make it in this sport. Without good equipment a rider will not make it, regardless of skills. So the more time they spend with the fans, more the fans will be made aware of the ups and downs of speedway."

  • Bob Ferry:

    "Redcar are pretty good. The fans are allowed in the pits until it's time to warm up the bikes. Also quite often the riders walk back to the pits, shaking hands with crowd, after the meeting has finished. Chris Kerr can often be seen long after the meeting has closed, talking to the fans and having his photograph taken."

  • Bryan Tungate:

    "I well recall that the Firs in Norwich was an autograph hunters paradise. Most remembered incident was when a World Championship Round was rained off halfway through. On the Car Park, loading his gear, was Rune Sormander from Sweden. He stayed in the rain for half an hour signing for us kids before going to the changing rooms to get ready to leave the Stadium. The weather didn't bother us kids and Rune took it in his stride. All the Stars riders and visiting riders in the 50s used to speak to the supporters, both home and away. It was the done thing then. It has to be said that this doesn't answer the sports ills but it might just bring in a few extra people sometimes if they thought there was a chance of speaking to a rider as well as seeing him in action."

  • John Mullen:

    "With ref to article about riders ignoring the youngsters. At Berwick the riders go into the stand after meeting to meet the fans and post meeting anyone can go talk to riders where the vans are parked and get photos and autographs."

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