"Perhaps it is time to do away with fixed gates. Let the opposition choose whatever gates they want on a race by race basis - and that could be 2 and 3, 1 and 4, any combination they want. That may encourage home promoters to produce more competitive tracks as their boys will have to work hard for the points. Also make the first 10 minutes free practice for the visitors, the current parades with riders wearing helmets are not the most exciting starts to the evening. Effectively the "only" thing wrong with speedway is that four riders of similar ability rarely line up against each other leading to lop-sided, uncompetitive racing. Crack that first and then go to work on guests, points limits and double tacticals!"
"The most obvious thing wrong with Speedway in my opinion is the lack of pure entertainment. To much down time between heats, too much messing about with starts and not enough heat races which is a conundrum requiring more money to run an extended event. Race meetings need to flow from the minute it starts. Handicapping is not the answer as all that will do is have riders ask for more money again raising the Promoters costs. The actual racing of the bikes doesn't need to be tinkered with as the spectacle of 4 riders without bikes is fine, it is everything leading up to and after this that needs looking at."
"I remember handicap starts for UK league racing in the mid 1950s. It was not well received by either the riders or spectators. I am surprised that after nearly 60 years it should again be put forward as one way to "save a dying sport'?"
"Innovate or die. I've never been much of a fan of handicap racing, although when I first started to go speedway in 1964, the old National League did have a handicap system for some of the top riders I seem to remember. As far as innovation is concerned for our beloved sport, it will take much more than a 5 or 10 metre handicap to bring back the falling crowds. I think we need to be far more bold.
Back in the mid-80's I recall the late John Berry offered to effectively "run" the sport on behalf of all promotions, but sadly they didn't have the foresight to at least let him try. There are hundreds of things that can be done to promote our sport that current promoters won't seem to try. A pool of money, funded by all of them, could be used for cinema advertising. Pressure could and should be put on sports editors of newspapers to give us the coverage we deserve. The BBC should be petitioned to include our results on evening sports programmes. They give enough time to women's darts and bowls, why not speedway?
Probably the biggest step that could be taken would be for the Grands Prix to be trialled in completely new venues. China would be a worthy start. A country with a massive population, the novel interest in a speedway GP would, I feel, make national news bulletins. If it didn't all the more reason for the above mentioned fund of promoters money to be utilised in hiring a top-class PR company to push our sport.
Let's be honest. The product hasn't changed since the days of the 60's and early 70's when crowd levels at some tracks were between 8-10 times what they are now. Riders still risk their lives every time they sit on a bike. The drama, noise, colour and spectacle of a night at the speedway still takes some beating, but ask a group of teenagers what speedway is and they will look at you as though you have just risen from the grave. If we don't seriously shout it loud from the rooftops then our sport, in my view the greatest sport on the planet, will eventually die when we do."
"Following Alan Pennington's comments regarding the late Ray Harris, I had the pleasure of seeing Ray during the last three seasons at Sun Street before closure. As a long time friend of Alan's, I thoroughly endorse his comments on this well loved rider. He may have been an unorthodox type of rider to look at, but every team needs this kind of stalwart in their ranks, and having watched Ray on many occasions I was certainly not alone in having a soft spot for this great team man. Sport could do with more of his kind, he just got on with his job, and will be remembered with reverence along with all the 'Potters' of Sun Street."
" I have been reading this article as a result of doing a bit of research on Fred Williams. My mother was born in Taibach near Margam, Port Talbot her maiden name was Williams. She has spoken many times of her cousin who raced speedway and went on to have a motor cycle garage. I decided to see what I could find out about Fred after a niece of my mother visited her and asked how Fred was related. I never realized that he was such a great champion and one I'm very proud to be a relation of especially as I am a keen motorcyclist myself."
"I'd go a step further I'd consider running league matches on a handicap basis. Do away completely with team point limits. Teams can sign any riders they want to but on the basis the riders will be starting on a handicap according to their average. Without giving it too much thought, it could be something like, riders on 3 points or less start from the tapes; 3-6 average start from 10 metres, 6-9 start from 20 metres and 9-12 start from 30 metres.
As well as making every race more exciting it would introduce a new tactical element to team building. Do you build a team with a mixture of each grade, or go top heavy and get three or four 9+ average riders believing they can win regularly from the back mark, or maybe a team heavy on 5/6 pointers? Remembering no team is going to go crazy and run a lot of 9 pointers because it would be too expensive. The traditionalists will be aghast at the suggestion, but I'd class myself right near the top of the list of traditionalists and I think the current ways are seeing the crowds get lower every year, so it is worth a try. "
"I wrote the Riders to Remember piece about Ken several years ago. He was great, superb and pure class. How I loved very minute he was on track, be it at Coventry, West Ham or Norwich where I first saw speedway. I will always miss Ken. Wear the McKinlay name with pride."
"Re Giffy. When the coach entered the salubrious Holmes Chapel estate with it's manicured lawns to pick up Giffy, he had all his gear spread out in front of the house, God knows what the neighbours thought. There was a no alcohol rule on the coach but Giffy came out with a couple of crates of beer. Driver Jim Hunter,also Coatbridge starting marshall, didn't know what to say. When anyone was opening a bottle everyone shouted 1...2...3 then "cough""
"How sad that it looks as though Wimbledon will be torn down. Going the way of West Ham, another superb track. I remember Tommy Jansson, a rider killed while he was racing. He was a superb rider and a lovely person who always walked round the track and talked to all the fans. It is sad that there are no tracks left in London. I agree thatit is disgraceful that once again Tai Woffinden has been left out of the honours list for 2016. Not only that no award for him on the BBC Sportsperson of the Year. How do we get recognition for a person who has been World Champion twice, but it seems that nobody cares about a person who has raised thousands for Great Ormond Street."
"Olle Nygren first rode at White City Glasgow in 1949 and here are details of the meeting. I remember asking him about the meeting, especially the newspaper reports which said the run off was controversial.In a flash he said he had been knocked off and was still a bit teed off about it goodness how many years later. Olle obviously remembers it too.
Wednesday 6th July 1949 White City Stadium, Glasgow World Championship Third Round
Jack Young 2 2 2 1 3 - 10 Frank Bettis 0 1 0 0 2 - 3 Olle Nygren 3 2 3 2 2 - 12 Brian Wilson 1 0 0 1 1 - 3 Ron Mason 3 0 0 3 E - 6 Geoff Bennett F 3 3 3 3 - 12 Wilf Jay 1 0 1 1 1 - 4 Ken Adams 2 2 1 0 1 - 6 Derek Close 1 2 0 2 2 - 7 Kid Curtis 0 0 2 1 E - 3 Jimmy Squibb 2 1 2 2 2 - 9 Gordon McGregor 3 3 2 1 1 - 10 Howdy Byford E 3 3 3 F - 9 Gil Craven 3 1 3 2 3 - 12 Charlie May X 3 3 E 3 - 9 Buck Ryan 2 1 1 F 0 - 4 Ken McKinlay (Res) DNR
Ht1 Nygren, Young, Wilson, Bettis 80.8 Ht2 Mason, Adams, Jay, Bennett (f) 82.0 Ht3 McGregor, Squibb, Close, Curtis 84.2 Ht4 Craven, Ryan, Byford (ef), May (exctps) 83.0 Ht5 Byford, Close, Bettis, Mason 83.0 Ht6 Bennett, Young, Craven, Curtis 81.8 Ht7 May, Nygren, Squibb, Jay 82.8 Ht8 McGregor, Adams, Ryan, Wilson 83.6 Ht9 Bennett, Squibb, Ryan, Bettis 83.2 Ht10 May, Young, McGregor, Mason 82.8 Ht11 Craven, McGregor, Jay, Bettis 83.0 Ht12 Byford, Curtis, Jay, Wilson 83.4 Ht13 Nygren, Craven, Adams, Close 82.4 Ht14 Byford, Squibb, Young, Adams 84.6 Ht15 Mason, Nygren, Curtis, Ryan (f) 83.6 Ht16 Bennett, Close, Wilson, May (ef) 82.4 Ht17 May, Bettis, Adams, Curtis (ef) 84.2 Ht18 Young, Close, Jay, Ryan 82.6 Ht19 Bennett, Nygren McGregor, Byford (f) 82.6 Ht20 Craven Squibb, Wilson, Mason (ef) 84.6 Run Off For First Place : Bennett, Craven, Nygren (f) No Time "
" I worked at Coatbridge as Dave Gifford's mechanic while he was there, I have went to Wimbledon with him for the National League Riders championship. I remember going on Jimmy Beaton's bus to Wimbledon, they had taken some of the seats out of the bus and we went to Giffy's house to collect him and the bike we loaded the bike into the bus and off to Wimbledon. If I remember right I think we went to Eastbourne to race on the Sunday. Some of the good times we had at the speedway as Giffy says looking back at the past speedway days were great days. If you can will you pass on my best wishes to Dave. I also remember him riding on a long track meeting with Ivan and Garry Middleton at Motherwell on a cold wet I think it was January."
"The Skido article brought back so many memories and I still have mine somewhere! Having no one to play it with I devised my own "solo" version whereby the cards were divided into four piles (red, blue, white, yellow) face down and were turned over singly in turn. Riders could only move if a move card was turned up and could only turn at the end of a move therefore they could be thrown out towards the fence if a 3 or 5 move card was turned. Red and blue always had gates 1 and 3 to simulate home track advantage and always "won" a dead heat. Races were over one lap. Whole matches could be run using real programmes with the genuine results rubbed out and fictitious ones substituted. This caused confusion when I sold these programmes to collectors 50 years later!"
"I have mixed memories of West Ham speedway.My first visit was whilst on holiday at Southend. A rained off British final. My second visit consisted of a drive with my elder brother from Long Eaton. Another rained off British final! (both in the sixties when I was in my mid teens). Amazingly thanks to another Southend holiday I finally saw racing at the fine old stadium. The Hammers hammered Sheffield 54 to 24 I believe. I also managed to see Dons past and present versus "the rest" at Plough lane thanks to Southend holidaying. Happy days."
"Ken has gone for a good few years now and the pain never goes away. It was sauté foul reading all the comments once again. Ken was so handsome charismatic classy true gentleman and the Best Rider that ever came out of Scotland. He was taken from us too soon. RIP Ken always in my thoughts. love you, Ishbel Xxxx "
A decade or so later, the Rogers family invented and played their own game, which can now be shared with the rest of the world for the first time. It looks like tremendous fun and it's a shame that it was never widely available. Thanks to Robert J. Rogers for digging it out after all these years.
A reminder that we always welcome submissions on anything related to speedway. If you've got a memory, opinion, photograph or idea to share then please get in touch. Articles can relate to the past, present or future of speedway anywhere in the world.
"In the picture with Ray "Buster" Brown on the far right another convert of note appears. Two spots to his left is Dudley "Dud" Smith who rode for Southampton, a really nice bloke. There is also to his left Don Morris who rode Cycle Speedway for Acton Acorns with Dud. Next to Don is Ray "Roy" Rogers who was often linked with me. We were known as Roy Rogers and Trigger. Apologies to the other two in the photo. I just can't rake up your names. "
"It's time we all pulled together. The 2016 New Year's honours have been announced, with once again no mention of speedway, and in particular Tai Woffinden. Tai may not be everyone's cup of tea, there are those who don't like tattoos for instance, personally it doesn't bother me one jot. What does bother me though, in a big way, is not only how our sport is completely ignored, but someone like Tai is completely overlooked. Two times a GB World Champion, and a massive fundraiser for charities. His kindness and persona shone through when he raised a huge amount of money for Great Ormond Street. He should be given an MBE for that alone, let alone that and his 2 time world crown in our beloved sport. Us speedway fans must stay together next year and organise a campaign or a petition to get Tai the recognition he so richly deserves. Anything less would be a travesty."
"This is unfortunate, spent some Thursday evenings at Plough Lane when The Heathens where in town. Always enjoyed my visits and would have liked to have gone more! Who could forget the 38-38 draw? However this is a sad fact of modern life, Speedway does not appeal to enough people who want to pay anymore. How many tracks are left in cities? Feel sad!"
"Great article. Obviously a few differing opinions here on the "show must go on" theme which I won't go into. Carolyn's reply resonates with me. I was present the night Denny Pyeatt was killed at Hackney in 1982 (I was aged 18 then). It's 33 years ago but I remember it in absolute detail just as you obviously do Svein's crash Carolyn. I don't think those memories ever leave us. I remember vividly having to duck out of the way of parts of his bike which disintegrated after hitting the 4th bend lamp standard at the pit exit. That meeting (Hackney v Reading) was abandoned immediately by a devastated Len Silver, the difference between that and Svein's crash being it was very obvious to everyone just how serious Denny's crash was."
"Sadly, my team Hull Vikings are no more, but I remember Bruce. He rode for Cradley at Dudley Wood when I first saw him. Going toe-to-toe with Bobby Beaton and Graham Drury were among my favourite moments. Good old fashioned racing and proper speedway. Later, in 1979, for the first time ever, a few friends and I were invited to go ice-racing with the guy who had Cradley's (amongst others) track shop, Dave Rattenberry. Dave also did tours for TEE-MILL. They sponsored Bruce and that year we went to Inzell in Germany. I have still got the ice spike, which we got when we booked. I think Bruce rode under the TEE-MILL banner for a few years after that. The highlight for me was when Bruce won the World team Cup with New Zealand at a damp Reading. By that time, the Vikings had Ivan Mauger. Great days, nice to hear he is still fit and well AND as mad as a box of frogs! Why change anything!"
"First of all, thanks for a great website . It is some 52 years now since I saw my last speedway meeting at Sun Street stadium. Time has not diminished my feelings for the old place and everything that went on in that compact little stadium. It was hemmed in on almost all sides by industry, and was in the centre of the city, which was most unusual for a speedway venue. Rows of terraced houses were but a stones throw from where the locals got their Saturday night 'fix' of speedway, but as far as I know no-one complained- they were probably inside the stadium! Sun Street, will live long in the memory."
Thanks to Phil Rice for these pictures he took at the Melbourne Grand Prix last month.
An interesting item on Ebay at the moment is the trophy from the 1980 National League Riders Championship, won by Wayne Brown of the Berwick Bandits. I hope the spelling on the plaque didn't detract from his victory. The item is available until 2nd December.
Can you help Peter Davies ( email@example.com ) ?:
"Does anyone remember the rider who wore all red leathers and I think his name was Errol Brook, did he ride for Cradley or Wolves around 1961-62? His nickname was the Red Peril or Red Devil. Also, any ideas who designed the Wolves speedway logo badge when they re-started in 1961? Many thanks."
Can you help Tracey Semler ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) ?:
"I am trying to find stuff on my Dad - Alan Semler. People called him Lumpy and he rode speedway bikes in the 1960 to 1980 at the old Brisbane Showground. If you having anything on my Dad could you email me please?"
"In my opinion one of the most reliable of middle order riders in the Belle Vue team of the era was Soren Sjosten. He never gave up until the end of the race - an Ace who could always be relied on. Regrettably when the Rider Control system was introduced the controllers of our sport shunted him off to Birmingham. He was never the same after that."
"I spent many seasons enjoying speedway at Dudley Wood from 1969 onwards and I still support the team wherever they ride. I try to get to as many away matches as possible. Sad ending for the old stadium but no one can turn the clock back, so look to the future cos there more to come from the Heathens."
"I was a regular Visitor at Hampden every Friday and followed the Glasgow Tigers for years in my teenage years. I used to sit down at the Pits with the Blantyre group that came in on one of Beaton's coaches. I remember the awful night of the crash well, it was right in front us all. We had been having a laugh with Sven just before he went out to race, he signed my autograph book and put on what he said was his nickname from home. From memory it was ' Kopi or Topi', so long ago I have forgotten exactly. He was such a lovely friendly person . We ranged from 9 to about 14 and he always had time for us and shared a laugh from the Pits. I never have forgotten that night, so tragic . So glad to hear there is a plaque in his name at Hampden. Still makes me sad even after all these years."
"Re the query Keith 'Porky' Veal: I remember him around the Southern Area League tracks in the late 1950s early 1960s. He was an Australian and based mainly in East Anglia - probably rode second-half races at Norwich, Ipswich and Yarmouth. I also think he rode with the Victor Boston Troupe in France around 1959. I do not remember him ever riding for Australia at test match level but may have appeared in 'representative' Australian teams in junior challenge matches. Veal was a really nice, friendly guy."