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Would You Like Another Slice of Delicious Roast Zebra?
By Arnie Gibbons

Is it a zebra? No it's Gary Havelock.

You are on speedwayplus website, so we know you are a speedway fan. But according to 'yougov profiler' you may also be partial to roast zebra. The recently released database reveals much about our habits (and even more about journalists inability to understand data).

Although the yougov database contains the views and preferences of 190,000 people only 101 identified zebra as one of their favourite foods. But that's still more than speedway fans who made up a sub-sample of just 70. This means that the expected number of zebra lovers in a random sub-sample of 70 would be 0.04 - meaning that if just one of our 70 speedway fans expressed a preference for zebra that would be a statistically significant.

So when zebra crops up at number three on the list of speedway fans 'favourite foods ' it doesn't mean we eat lots of zebra, it just means that in this sample there are more fans of zebra cuisine than one would expect.

Chicken and Chinese dishes dominate the list of foods that speedway fans are particularly partial to. In contrast Moto GP fans prefer Indian food while the list for Superbike fans includes venison, veal and oysters.

The search of the database makes comparisons with a similar group of people, referred to as a 'comparison set'. Interrogation of the database reveals that Ipswich Town FC fans like bird watching and Coventry City FC fans are more interested in sex and relationships. It doesn't mean that most 'Cov' fans are sex maniacs or that the 'tractorboys' are all amateur ornithologists. It just tells us that 'Sky Blues' supporters are more interested in sex than football supporters in general.

The 22,839 football fans on the database constitute a large sample from which meaningful information can be extracted, but I would be less convinced about a smaller sample, such as the 208 Coventry City fans or the 70 speedway fans.

The size of that sample in itself is depressingly small. It equates to about 20,000 speedway fans nationwide. That is less than the number of people who regularly attend speedway. However because yougov is internet based it may under represent groups who are older and less internet savvy such as shale supporters.

Fans of motor sports in general make up a much larger group, over 15 thousand. So in a sample of 15,000 motor sports fans only 70, or less than 0.5% had an interest in speedway. (They are much younger than the speedway sample, prefer hard rock (AC/DC, Guns 'n' Roses) and are much more tech savvy.)

How does the sample size compare with other groups? Well there are 721 people are partial to Richard Wagner and 1346 who like albatrosses. Even Lord Thurso (93) has more supporters than speedway. However I imagine that the samples for minority sports consist mainly of active followers while liking an albatross involves no effort and takes no time (apart from ticking one box on the yougov survey).




So what does the data tell us about speedway fans? They are mainly male and over sixty - hardly earth shattering news. Although more likely to be working class than middle class the correlation is much weaker than many other sports, including Motocross and Moto GP. Superbike racing fans are the exception, and more likely to be middle class. yet people who like 4-times World Superbike Champion Carl Fogarty are more working class than their comparison set.

It is worth observing that many of the insights revealed by examination of the data are not specific to speedway fans but the sort of responses that would be expected from any group that was skewed towards working-class males over sixty. For example an interest in the news registers positively with almost all groups that are typically over sixty and Asda, Argos and Wilko are all brands that you would expect to be more popular among older working class people.

Geographically the South is the place to find speedway fans (yay, Poole). Workwise the strongest correlation is for transport and logistics, suggesting that the image of speedway as being the sport of 'white van man' has some truth.

The hobbies and activities list is topped by attending the theatre and live music, a preference not shared by any other group of sports fans I looked at. This may be a problem of the small sample size, but it may be that active speedway fans are more likely to seek leisure opportunities outside the home. Attending sport came in at tenth on the list (below driving, sudoku and looking after pets) but it is noteworthy that attending sport doesn't appear on the list of favoured activities for any other group of sports fans, suggesting that we are a more hardcore group than the more passive fans of other sports. (Sport in general or watching it on TV appears in most hobbies and activities lists for fans of specific sports.)

Motorsports feature very heavily among our general interests, the only other sports getting a look-in are darts and athletics (but only the 200 metres, certainly not 100m or 400m!)

Members of the speedway family are affable but stubborn and more likely than most to agree with the following statements:


"Across history, religion has done more bad than good"

"Investing in stocks and shares seems too risky for me"

"The world is controlled by a secretive elite"

"Spending time with my family is important to me"


I'm not sure what to make of that lot, but reading the British Speedway Forum would suggest strong support for the notion that : "The BSPA is controlled by a secretive elite".

We also see ourselves as youthful. Presumably this is due to lots of 60+ speedway fans going out to watch our sport while their contemporaries are entertaining themselves at home.

When it comes to entertainment the preferences of speedway fans seem pretty middle of the road and fairly random. We watch a fair amount of television, amongst our favourites - programmes that score highly against the comparison set - are: 'The Bill', 'Top Cat', 'Extreme Fishing with Robson Green', and 'Call My Bluff'. Most recently watched TV shows are mainly news related, although 'Pointless', 'Eggheads' and 'Match of the Day' also appear in the list.

The music choices clearly demonstrate the vintage of the typical speedway supporter. The top five artists are: The Hollies, Roger Daltrey, Ricky Nelson, Wizzard and The Yardbirds. Excluding re-issues none of these artists has made the top 30 since 1974 (although The Who had three more hits featuring Roger Daltrey as lead singer after this date).

And 'Once A Jolly Swagman' doesn't get a mention in the films section - a shocking omission.

The internet sites list for speedway fans is dominated by IT support websites which take three of the top four places. This is not a pattern repeated with other groups that are skewed towards the older working class. Whether this is a product of small sample size rather than an indication that followers of speedway struggle with new technology is open to debate.

When it comes to 'old media' our predilections are a rather odd set. The 'Daily Telegraph' is the newspaper that features more strongly than expected amongst our sample. But the 'fuddy duddy' Telegraph sits oddly beside our magazine choices: football magazine 'Four-Four-Two', 'New Musical Express' and 'Nutz'. That does suggest members of the speedway clan are indeed young at heart.

Remember this is just a bit of fun - the sample sizes is too small to be meaningful. Does anyone really believe that the sport choices of Ricky Nelson fans (the database identifies 177 of them) are particularly biased towards ice dancing and speedway?


This article was first published on 1st December 2014


  • Ken Nicholson:

    "There are more surprises in store when you consider a whopping 15,848 are into knitting, while a measly 314 enjoy going to pubs and nightclubs. Are we turning into a nation of couch potatoes? However, when you consider The Guardian readers are over represented by a factor of 30 and 15 in relation to The Sun and Mirror, then maybe we shouldn't worry too much about the few respondents who like speedway! "

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