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Paper View
By Philip Dalling

The news that Jon Cook of Arena Essex-Lakeside was to be the first of several speedway personalities to be featured on TalkSport during the summer months made me think about the current (and past) media coverage of speedway.

The attitude of the 'quality' press to the sport varies considerably. As far as the national papers are concerned, the Daily Telegraph usually carries a paragraph or so about the Grand Prix, while The Guardian (more about that one later) and The Independent will usually mention the Cardiff event.

On the downside, The Times even seems to have stopped using results on a regular basis. Regional newspaper coverage appears to me to be still good - fairly recent visits to Coventry and Wolverhampton have both coincided with 'wrap around' special editions of the Evening Telegraph and the Express and Star for matches at Brandon and Monmore respectively, whilst the Plymouth-based Western Morning News has first-class coverage of both the revived Devils and of West Country hero, Cornwall's Chris Harris.

My new book (sorry for the plug) on Nottingham and Long Eaton Speedway 1928-1967 (Tempus) has received excellent coverage from the Nottingham Evening Post and the Derby Evening Telegraph.

Returning to the national press, it is interesting to note that in the 'golden age' of the late 1940s, several men who later became top by-lined Fleet Street sports columnists cut their journalistic teeth at least partly on speedway. Names like Desmond Hackett of the Daily Express (writing at a time when the Express sold four million copies a day), and J L Manning of The Daily Mail feature in the pages of the Stenner annuals of the period.

Whether they had a genuine enthusiasm for speedway or were simply using the opportunity to make a few quid is something we will probably never discover. One top 1950s/1960s sports journalist who made no bones about his dislike for speedway was John Macadam. In his biography, The Macadam Road, he describes the sport as 'hysterical'.

The Hackett connection is particularly interesting in view of the current Daily Express interest in speedway.

Finally, I was trawling the web recently and found a piece on the sport by the veteran Guardian sportswriter Frank Keating. Usually to be found on the cricket and rugby beat, Keating is an incisive writer with occasionally a very sharp edge to his material.

Assigned to write about the Elite League play-offs last year, Keating summed up speedway as the sports of the 500s - riders mounted on 500cc machines watched by 500 people.

Ouch!


Philip's recent book on the history of Nottingham and Long Eaton speedway is available to purchase from our online shop.

 

This article was first published on 5th July 2007


 

  • Robert Rogers:

    "It seems to be the old problem, Speedway just seems to be ignored whatever we do. Back in the glory days of West Ham, our Publicity Manager and then Team Manager, Dave Lanning was a press man and very good at publicity, did everything possible, but still got very little publicity. The local paper normally gave as much space to Speedway as it gave to the Schools football league and only made a bit of an effort in the summer when there was no real football news. It was famous for when it did give a mention, they got it wrong more often than right, still it gave you a laugh seeing what they got wrong each week. Their most famous was for not knowing the difference between a Russian & Swedish race jacket!

    In 2005, when the Local Authority had a 40th anniversary of it being created, it had to have the fact that there was a Speedway team pointed out to them. When asked why no mention of the sport in 1965, they said "'O' we did not realise that there had been Speedway then". We had only won the League, the K/O Cup and the London Cup, what else did we have to do to get noticed outside the walls of Custom House Stadium? Seems nothing has improved. "

  • Robert Rogers:

    "What did speedway do to upset the press, they used to love us? The 1947 (Sunday) People Speedway Guide by Tom Morgan, known as 'Broadsider' in the trade was a very good booklet. Tommy Price in the late 40's England's first champion, a photo shows him proudly holding aloft the 'SUNDAY DISPATCH' World Championship Trophy.

    In the 1950s' Wembley used to think the London Cup was their own personal property as they won it so often, the Photo shows Bill Kitchen, Wembley captain holding the 'EVENING NEWS' London Cup. The point with this is that on the cups in bold letters is engraved the name of the newspaper sponsoring it and can be clearly seen even in photos over 50 years old.

    Coming up to the 1960's the Recorder Group of Newspaper sponsored the flying 1-lap record at West Ham as a second half event. (Sorry if most of my contributions to this site are from the stone-age, but I am an old fashion soul!).

    Coming a bit more up to date in the 1980's the Mirror (Daily & Sunday) produced Speedway annuals. Perhaps Speedway needs to think, paraphrasing an old saying, it is a case of 'Not what can the press do for us, it is what can we do for the Press'. "

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