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A View from the Terraces
By Mick Clargo

It is fast approaching 60 years since I was covered by shale for the first time, on the third bend at Oxford. Since then, I have seen speedway's ups and its downs. Of course, for us Cheetahs fans it is down as far as it can go right now, with the bikes falling silent at Cowley just over two years ago.

There is something addictive about speedway and even during times when it has been hard to go to meetings, keeping up to date with the developments has always been a must for me. It is quite amazing that people always remember the exact details of how they were introduced to speedway and who rode at the time. I am no exception and vividly recall riders like Jim Gregory, Jim Boyd, Harry Saunders, Bill Kemp and Ronnie Genz.

I can remember plenty of 'ups' in speedway. I am probably the envy of many because I have witnessed the majestic riding of 'The Wizard of Balance' (Peter Craven). Then there was a fresh faced Mark Loram's debut at a sodden Oxford track, when he showed the others how it should be done. And the time that Ronnie Genz went smoothly around the outside of Ove Fundin at Oxford then went on to win the race. These are all fond memories and every speedway fan has similar ones.

But what of the present? I wonder just how many supporters will remember who their favourites were in 60 years time. I'll bet that most will have a hard job remembering the teams the riders represented after the continuing game of musical chairs we endure every season. Ronnie Genz was a major influence at Oxford for a number of years and if you think of Nigel Boocock, you can only think of Coventry. The sad reality today is that most riders have ridden for more clubs than they haven't. No wonder rosettes went out of fashion - otherwise you'd end up with a wardrobe full of them!

The constant team shuffling is no doubt down to the points limit and I wonder if this idea for controlling team strength has had its day. After all, it has not stopped teams from being under-strength (e.g. Mildenhall and Oxford in recent years). It has also had the effect of destroying championship-winning teams (e.g. Coventry, Oxford, and Poole).

One of my pet dislikes is the double points rule. I have never understood the logic behind this and I think it belittles speedway. How can any team have more points on offer than the other, while still playing on a level field? It is especially ridiculous in two-legged matches. Speedway is about racing and not playing trump cards. Nothing wrong in my mind with having tactical substitutes, as these needed real team management and they allowed cover if teams were decimated during a match (i.e. losing one or both reserves). In the same way that Formula One motor racing has become distracted by pit lane tactics, I fear that these double point rules are helping speedway move towards tactical manoeuvring.

While there has been much been said about the play-offs and the GP Series, the problem that I have is that I cannot genuinely accept the winners as the true champions. I have been to Cardiff and it is an enjoyable spectacle (to which I shall be returning). But in my heart of hearts, I do not believe the GP champion to be a real world champion, since he is participating in a restricted field. Likewise, I think the League Champions should be just that. Champions of the league and not just the better team of two, over two matches at the end of the season.

We hear about getting back to basics in all sorts of things. I think speedway really needs to do that if it is to be on an up once again (which it will be eventually). I say get rid of the gimmicks and the obsession with averages. I don't pretend to know all the answers, but I do know one thing. Disposing with that infernal green helmet was a move in the right direction!

 

This article was first published on 25th February 2010


 

  • Ian Muir Martin:

    "I would just like to say that I agree 100% with this article. I think Speedway would take a tremendous step forward if the points raised by Mick Clargo were addressed. I too have been arguing for a long time against the Grand?? Prix, Play Offs, Double Points (this one is a disgrace and VERY unfair). Speedway is a FABULOUS spectacle and in having four Riders going round a Track to claim points is a VERY simple Formula. How complicated do you have to make it? It is not the Supporters who will ultimately be responsible for the demise of Speedway, it will be the "Rules, the Damned Rules and the Statistics" (to paraphrase a famous expression) brought in by the Promotors. I would love to see Speedway survive for many, many years to come - However - I am not overly optimistic. Speedway MUST present itself as, most of all, a FAIR Sport - at the moment it cannot claim to be that. (Double Points) There is too much meddling with the Rules - Supporters aren't sure about some of them because they are changed that often. I cannot claim the longevity of Mick Clargo - I never saw Peter Craven (sadly) but I have been attending Speedway since 1964. I honestly believe that MOST of the changes since those days have been to the DETRIMENT of our Sport rather than the BENEFIT. "

  • Alf White:

    "Having read the article on Ronnie Genz I was fortunate to have witnessed seeing some fantastic riders around Sandy Lane - namely Briggo, Craven, Fundin and Nielsen. I can remember laying in bed as a young boy and on a clear night you could tell by the cheering if Oxford had won that heat so well was Oxford supported in them days. I am now 71 years old but I still follow speedway."

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