No Defence if there's no Fence?....by Dave Green
The air-fence, air-tek barrier or whatever other variations exist, has become an accepted part of Grand Prix speedway over the last few years. This season saw it become a mandatory requirement for Elite League circuits, although we'll ignore the Ipswich situation, and the consensus is that they protect riders and quite possibly saves lives.
That's why I feel that speedway needs to push on with this initiative and roll out the air barriers to all league circuits. Let's face it, the guys in the Premier League are only going marginally slower than the Elite boys, and the unpredictable racing in the Conference League always leads to some nasty accidents.
I'm sure the promoters will feel the same way and it's only the prohibitive cost of purchasing the fences that's stopped this happening already. They are undeniably expensive and no club at those levels is cash rich. But the money has to be found, whether from sponsorship, lottery grant or through challenge matches where the riders give their services for free.
How will the BSPA be able to defend accusations of negligence if, god forbid, a fatal or near-fatal crash was to occur on one of their PL or CL tracks. The compulsory introduction of the barriers at the Elite league tracks is a BSPA acknowledgement of their worth. Would a defence of "we couldn't afford it" be acceptable in any legal proceedings resulting from a crash on a track without the air bags?
I'm conscious that by writing this article I'm possibly drawing attention to something that speedway would rather keep 'in house'. We don't want tracks to be closed down on safety grounds any more than we want to see riders picking up 'avoidable' injuries. Riders are obviously happy enough to ride on tracks without the fences and this would presumably form the defence in the aforementioned fictitious legal case. Let's just see if we can avoid ever getting into that nightmare scenario.
Speedway will always be a dangerous sport, we have to accept that. Many injuries are not caused by the fence in any case and it will always be possible for a rider to go over the barrier. The focus must be on minimising the danger and air fences can make a huge contribution towards that.
This article was first published on 7th November 2004
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