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Fixed Nights Aren't Working
By David Pickles

Having just returned from the Rye House v Belle Vue meeting on 20 June, it struck me how low the crowd was, compared to some other meetings at the venue, and the fact that Belle Vue still carry significant weight when it comes to deciding which meeting to see.

The meeting, though fairly average, had its fair share however of the things that blight current day speedway. The usual nonsense with "tape touching" which led to the obligatory exclusion (oops sorry should I say "disqualification" in this politically correct day and age?), part of the air fence bursting (which took quite a time to fix), and of all things riders not being able to ride due to "sunlight" (For more details on that one, I suggest readers ask the Rye management who had the bright idea of demolishing certain trees which shielded the 3rd and 4th bends sufficiently since the early 1970's).

The outstanding thing to me though, was the attendance. Now, of course, back in the golden days, Belle Vue visiting could always be guaranteed to put a few thousand extra on the gate. This time, it didn't seem to work. No reflection, of course, on the Rye House management, who always strive to put on a decent show, but I think a reflection on the mistake made by the BSPA in the last close season to vote for "fixed nights".

We cannot, and never will be able to emulate Sweden or Poland for crowds. The fixed nights work there, as they are able, on their larger attendances, to entice many more heat leaders and GP riders into their teams. You can count the number of GP riders who are interested in riding in the UK now on the fingers of barely two hands.

I spoke, with a close friend of mine, in private, to one of the staff at Rye House, who told us in no uncertain terms, that the loss of their traditional Saturday race night probably cut attendances by between 40-50%. It was very noticeable that there were so few young children there (school next day), and that must have a telling effect on crowds for speedway here going forward.

So, the BSPA this winter, have to reverse their decision pronto and let individual clubs pick their race nights. We cannot pander to the GP's or indeed GP riders and see long standing clubs go to the wall, so that certain people can get their planes on time. I have always had, and always will have, a very high regard for EVERY speedway rider, anybody who sits on a bike has my highest respect, but if clubs start going to the wall through lack of crowd support then they will have put themselves out of a job, and the general public will see speedway dying before their very eyes, quicker than it is currently doing.

The "Tape-touching" nonsense, the referees complicit in not putting on a slick presentation, and the general amateur presentations at some tracks are debates left for another day. Rest assured though, they are on the agenda.

 

This article was first published on 23rd June 2018

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  • Steve Haire:

    "It seems I'm always replying to Dave Pickles observations. I think the reason is we're of the same sort of age and have always been passionate about speedway. I was going to Rye on Wednesday to see Belle Vue but decided against it. I don't think the fixed race night is the reason for the decline in spectators. A fixed Wednesday race night should have freed up more foreign riders but then they allowed Swindon to be exempt and also limited teams to one 8 point rider.

    You have no continuality, having to wait 3 weeks for another home meeting then not knowing how many of your or the opponents team are available. This is the reason people are not going. I've got used to not going speedway and the reasons I didn't bother that Wednesday are the track produces poor racing, and Rye were missing 2 riders who's doubling down Championship teams had priority over their services.

    Saturday nights I spend down the pub with my mates reminiscing about the good old days of speedway, not about looking forward to the next meeting. Like most sports you'll always have your diehards who'll go week in week out no matter what but unfortunately in speedway they're not being replaced by new supporters.

    British speedway needs to realise sport is about competition where the strongest not only survive but prosper. On a ironic note I hear there's talk about a new northern track opening at the same time there's talk of Buxton closing through lack of riders. Perhaps trebling or quadrupling up or mechanics and promoters races to make up the teams. Perhaps even betting, and although betting on the final score might be illegal you could bet on the number of guests your team will have.

    Lastly RIP Kelvin Mullarkey, unfortunately characters like him political correctness doesn't allow, with perhaps Nicki Pedersen being the exception. Perhaps that's what's missing, characters. "

  • Steve Cook:

    "Could not agree more with David Pickles comments."

  • Martin:

    "Hello from California, I'm former 2nd Divsion speedway rider, I competed here in southern and central California in the late 70's to the mid eighties and speedway here in California is in pretty dismal shape compared to its heyday back when I was riding and we were sending our best to compete in the British league we still had lots of riders here putting on a pretty good show. I sure hope you all over there in Britain can overcome your issues and bring speedway back to its former glory that the British League has always been in my eyes the epicenter of speedway. The tape rule here in California has been you are excluded if you break the tapes. "  

     

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