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For the benefit of....
By Dave Green

Broadbanks
Morton

Mike Broadbanks' recent benefit meeting at Swindon got me thinking about testimonial meetings in general. 'Broady' was being rewarded for his many years service to the Robins back in the days before testimonials had been invented. There's no doubt that meeting was well deserved and loyal club servants like Mike are exactly those for whom these meetings should be held.

I believe that the first testimonial meeting was held for Nigel Boocock back in the mid-seventies. 'Little Boy Blue' had racked up umpteen years of action for the Coventry Bees and had scored thousands of points for the club. His event was well attended as Brandon regulars and fans from further afield turned out to pay tribute to him.Many other similar meetings followed in future years as other club stalwarts like Peter Collins, John Louis, Steve Lawson, Rob Grant and Chris Morton were rewarded.

In recent years there has been a proliferation of these meetings and I've been left scratching my head at times. Riders that have moved clubs frequently seem to be having the majority of these, in fact I genuinely can't remember the last one that celebrated ten year's continuous service with one club.

Most of the recent recipients have received a meeting because their 'ownership' has not changed hands for ten seasons. In some cases this means they're owned by one club and loaned to another. In others it means that an individual promoter, who may even have moved from club-to-club himself, has owned that rider's contract for ten years. That the rider concerned may have appeared for seven, eight or nine clubs during that decade seems not to matter.

Of course there are mitigating circumstances in all this. The points limit has undoubtedly played a part in forcing some riders to move on. If teams had a free hand to select whichever riders they wished then perhaps teams would be a little more static than they presently are? It would certainly make it easier for middle-order men, often the most likely to be forced out by virtue of their average, to build up a record of loyal service.

The almost total collapse of the transfer system is another important factor. It's now very rare for one club to buy a rider from another club, this leads to many riders remaining assets of their very first club.

There are also those unfortunates who are forced to move on when a track closes. In situations like those it's quite right that their record of service passes on to their new employer. Even if this does mean that they subsequently stage their testimonial meeting at a track with which they've no long term connection.

I wonder though if some change is required to the system? It does seem too easy now for a rider to spend his whole career out on loan, jumping from club to club in search of the best deal, while all the time clocking up service towards a testimonial.

Might it be better to award testimonials on the following criteria?

  • 10 years continuous service to a single club (perhaps with a maximum of 2 years out on loan allowed)

  • 15 years continuous service to British speedway as a whole - unless testimonial has already been staged

  • 25 years service to British speedway as a whole

    Of course, benefit meetings for those forced to retire through injury would continue as at present.

    I personally think this would be a more transparent system than the one we currently have. It would reward loyalty to a single club but still allow us to recognise good value performers who have moved around a little.

    Ultimately, I suppose the success of any testimonial depends on the reputation of the recipient. If the supporters are unimpressed with his credentials then they won't turn out to watch. Similarly it may be difficult for the rider to attract a strong field if his fellow professionals doubt he's worthy of the honour.

     

    This article was first published on 21st December 2006


     

  • Tony Mowles:

    "Difficult to argue with your main premise that testimonials are too easily 'earned' but would fully agree with your thought that the points limit has much to do with rider movement making 'stalwarts' that much rarer.

    Would disagree that there needs to be a rigid formula for testimonials or greater transparency as it is really between a promotion and rider as to whether a testimonial is a viable proposition. Perhaps we should be more worried about a system that encourages such 'merry-go-round' team building than one of its unwelcome symptoms, which as you rightly point out fans can choose not to support if they see fit."

  • Andy Davidson:

    "Please don't forget Barry Thomas, he had 2 testimonials one for 10 years service and another one for 20 years service with Hackney."

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