Home Recent Updates Sections Contact Us

Let's NOT Turn The Clock Back
By Geoff Langley

It's a pity that Ivor Craine and those who have commented on his 'Where Have the Fans Gone?' article all seem to think that speedway's problems can only be solved by turning the clock back to an era that, for the most part, only ever existed in their minds. Instead of facing up to the problems of the modern world.

The general complaint seems to be "Let's have more races, second halves, better stadiums, oh and by the way £17 is too much to pay for all these extras".

Firstly we have to recognise that very few speedway clubs own their own stadiums but are merely tenants with little or no control over facilities so realistically there is little that can be done. We are stuck with the stadiums we have. However, stock-car and greyhound meetings take place in the same stadia without large numbers of disgruntled fans constantly talking their sport down.

If you read Len Silver's book it is evident that speedway has, for the most part, had to exist on a shoe-string for the last 40 or 50 years at least, and on the generosity of benefactors such as Len, Rick Frost and Bob Dugard who have poured a small fortune into the sport plus the sponsors, many of whom put in more than they get out.

I don't buy the argument that it is too expensive. If people can find £40 or £50 to get into a football match or several hundred pounds for a single F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone then £17 (which includes VAT of course) is not inordinate for a speedway meeting, provided you have a job with an average income. It all depends on where you priorities lie, but frankly, those who say £17 is too much are not going to start coming if it is £15 and it is virtually impossible to find live entertainment, especially motor sport, cheaper than that.

Speedway does not exist in a bubble. There are many, many factors that draw people away and affect support. Grass Track racing is in a more desperate situation than speedway. Moto-cross is generally not pulling in the crowds except for big meetings. Greyhound racing has lost a huge number of stadia in the last 30 years, Cricket draws in poor crowds for County matches (as opposed to 20/20, and pubs are reportedly closing at the rate of 10 a week. Is this because they are all poorly run or just maybe because there are other factors involved?

I can go back to the days of growing up watching West Ham but even that closed some 40 years ago because it was existing on barely big enough crowds to pay the bills. The same goes for Hackney, which basically only survived because of Len Silver's enthusiasm for the sport rather than any desire to make a fat profit.

Of course, there are clubs who do not put on a professional show especially with regard to meetings that over-run, but that is not (contrary to what the complainers seem to suggest) something that runs throughout the sport. Lakeside for example, in a stadium with poor facilities, has virtually doubled its average attendance since Jon Cook and Stuart Douglas took over 6 years ago because they have built a competitive team and complete most meetings by around 9.40 pm from an 8pm start, and of course there is the success story that is Poole Speedway since Matt Ford took over more than 10 years ago, but nevertheless the doom and gloom merchants choose to ignore that.

Of course speedway has its problems, and yes some are very serious, and of course it pulls in a fraction of the crowds of the Thirties and Forties, but let's be realistic. People have far more choice in how they spend their money these days and homes are warmer and more comfortable than they used to be, making some less inclined to go out. In the present economic climate speedway has done well not to lose several tracks especially after last year's weather.

However none of these things will be solved by turning the clock back. Let's recognise the real problems facing the sport on instead of complaining that "fings aint what they used to be" without regard for the economic realities of the world we live in and the problems that are outside the sports control.

Otherwise the excellent Speedway Plus site will end up sounding like the monotonous letters page of Speedway Star. The season's about to start. I'll be there. Will you?


This article was first published on 31st March 2013


  • Andy Oldfield:

    "Have to say that I am one of the dreamers who constantly hark back to the 'old days', but then it was always sunny in the summer time and winters always had ten feet of snow!! However having read this excellent piece I can only agree entirely with the comments contained, to coin a phrase' we are were we are' and perhaps we should just get on with it and support the sport that we all love for one reason or another."

  • Mike Wilson:

    "Excellent article. You hit the nail on the head when you say ''you shouldn't look back to fix today's problems''. When I was in the UK riding some 23 years ago the sport had exactly the same issues and they had been around for 10 years or more before that. How can Sports { if that is what they are } such as Darts and Poker have such huge followings..Because they have adapted for the modern age and then got their marketing strategies in order. Speedway must drop the guest system and introduce squads of perhaps 10 riders, fans can then identify with a true team. Clubs if not already doing so need to use fully every social media for advertising and get the youngsters back. The biggest issue is the sport is run by people who are in it and make rules to suit themselves, bring in an independant CEO and you will see Speedway move forward again.....Thats my 2 cents worth...."

  • Bill Elliot:

    "Have to disagree with large portions of this article. Writer suggests £17 not out of the way to watch speedway compared to other forms of entertainment-would suggest that merely indicates there are many forms of entertainment that average punters can't afford on a weekly basis and unfortunately speedway is now one of many in that category-folk don't say "well, speedway is still not as unaffordable as other sports, so I'll go", they simply say "I'll keep my money for other luxuries such as food, the mortgage and putting some petrol in my car." Sorry, I reckon I'm not too badly off, but the prospect of spending something like £34 (for two) plus prog and a cup of tea even takes me up to about £40 for my weekly entertainment. Multiply that by 4, and that's about £160 a month. Most folk can't afford that level of cost every month unless they're exceptionally lucky, so if you work out that you can maybe do it only every other week or less, you're reducing significantly your hard core of fans. If that means that Speedwayplus becomes a close relative of the "Speedway Star" letters page, that's maybe got more to do with the contributors having a realistic grasp of reality as it is in the UK at the minute."

  • David Pickles:

    "3 cheers for Geoff Langley's article - let's NOT turn the clock back. I suppose, by design, and being the sport it is there are thousands that gaze longingly at the action photo's of the 40's and 50's, taking place in packed stadia, but Geoff is 100% correct. We must look to the day, and speedway must face up to current day problems. I really can't add to his article, except to say I sincerely hope we as the sport I have loved since a 9-year old not just survives, but begins to prosper again as it surely deserves."

    [ Use Desktop Version ]


    Comment on this Article | Contact Us | Go Back to Main Menu

  •    Please leave your comments on this article