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Nothing Like a Large and Noisy Crowd
By Robert Graham

Packed Terrace in the 60s

It's my firm contention that the speedway riders of today are displaying as many skills and providing as many thrills as any of their predecessors. Instinctively guiding their powerful machines around circuits large and small, racing within centimetres of each other, cutting back sharply on the last bend in a desperate race to the flag. There's no other sport that can measure up to a great speedway race.

So, why doesn't it seem as exciting as it once did?

Growing up in the sixties I remember the packed terraces - kids, parents and grandparents all standing together, trying to find a bit of elbow room to fill in their programmes.

As the tapes rose, the noise of the crowd would errupt as our heroes race towards the first bend.

"C'mon Terry"

"Go on son, take him wide"

"What are you doing? This lot are rubbish, get a move on"

The noise from the bikes and the screams of the crowd combining to conjure up a tangible excitement that infected even the most normally placid individuals.

It all seemed very special, like we were sharing in something that really mattered and that we were all playing our part in it. Even the dullest race seemed exciting, well, until the riders become strung out at least.

I've got two pairs of rose-tinted spectacles on when I look back on those meetings. I was also much younger and found many things in life wonderfully exciting, but........

There's no doubt in my mind that speedway needs to be watched in a large and noisy crowd to be fully appreciated. The noise of the fans and the noise of the bikes both equally essential to the experience.

I've been fortunate enough to see some Polish meetings via the internet this year and I'm extremely jealous of the numbers and fervour of the fans. We used to have that in the UK.

Our terraces are now often sparsely populated and a good race is appreciated by polite applause and a wave of the programme.

Is there an answer to it? Can we ever get the fans back in the numbers we need? I'm not sure there is or we can, I'm just pleased that I can close my eyes, think back to those happy sixties evenings and say "I was there".


This article was first published on 4th July 2019

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