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Speedway's Second Coming
by Chris Seaward - 11/06/2006

Sean Bean as Sharpe

When I was younger I used to love Sharpe, the ITV drama starring Yorkshire's loveable rogue Sean Bean. Imagine then my excitement ten years later when it was announced Sharpe was back with a bang, two mind blowing episodes over consecutive nights.

The setting was as picturesque as before, the action as heroic and the characters just as fantastically portrayed as I remembered. Yet as I sat down to enjoy the high budget show something wasn't right, my attention was wavering far too easily. I had craved to see Sharpe for a decade but when it was placed in front of me I realised it didn't compete with the original making of the show.

It was second rate, caught in the wake of the original production back in the early 90's; it was attempting to resurrect an untouchable series that had left our TV screens in a blaze of glory some ten years ago. It posed the question, Is it ever possible to revive or take seriously something that has already reached the pinnacle of its existence?

Suddenly I lugged speedway into the equation; it seems we continually compare the sport's current state to the glory days of yesteryear. Fans complain that speedway was far better in the past, more characters, improved racing, larger crowds, healthy media coverage and better value for money. Whilst this maybe genuinely true we have to shake the tendency to dwell on the glory days of the past and instead actively embrace speedway's future. Many older fans feel the same as me when I watched Sharpe's brief resurgence, why should they take modern day speedway seriously when it can never emulate the glory days of a golden era that has long passed?

A previous generation of young speedway fans

It is therefore necessary to entice a new group of supporters to our terraces, a younger generation that isn't aware or obsessed with speedway's past and isn't concerned with drawing continual comparisons to days gone by. Yes it maybe horribly frustrating to have hundreds of kids running round causing havoc at speedway meetings but they are the ones who will dictate whether the sport can once again climb the ladder of success. Kids for a quid promotions, big mascots chucking sweets into the crowd and interacting with youngsters is what the sport needs in order to lower the age of the average speedway fan. Even if the children aren't glued to the track action at least the sport will become familiar in their minds and in ten years down the line they won't be alien to the word speedway.

Many have expressed their views on the re-branding of Reading, but anyone who has visited Smallmead this season will agree that BSI are presenting speedway in a fantastic way. Each week at Reading's stadium hundreds of children are asking their parents about our sport and crucially the promotion are making sure their parents bring them back by providing enjoyable off track entertainment.

We need to shake the Sharpe mentality in order to move forward, we are still a relatively young sport which peaked very early. The speedway flame has never burnt out and despite immense adversity still shines brightly, together let's divert our gaze away from the successful past and instead look towards the uncertain future. Wipe the slate clean, grab a fresh piece of chalk and be part of speedway's second coming.

 

This article was first published on 11th June 2006


 

  • Bill Reynolds:

    "I myself look back with very fond memories, but when I look at speedway today and maybe the future I despair. Riders being kept out of team places by 0.05 of a point, how stupid is that. Speedway is a simple sport, 'start and keep turning left' this was told to me by Frank Smart, yes what a character and entertainer - whoops sorry I'm going back again. Speedway needs to simplify team make ups, cut out the complications and get on with speedway as it used to be."

  • Mick Cast:

    "When I was a child I used to avidly watch Dr Who on BBC, which went on and on for years. Sometimes with slight resurgence, then slipped into a dire slump in viewing numbers and was dumped. Then just recently the BBC reintroduced Dr Who, tighter scripts, better visuals, compact one or two parters only. Now I am hooked again, different doctor, pretty assistant, a tardis that nearly works properly.

    So what's my point? Speedway has been about for 80 years approx, it has seen very high attendences and very low ones too. I subscribe to the Backtrack magazine because it covers the 70s and 80s, a time when I used to go to speedway sometimes four times a week, Crayford, Wimbledon, Hackney, Eastbourne, Canterbury, White City plus various other tracks. I also subscribe to Speedway Star to keep up to date on a weekly basis. I ceased going to speedway on a regular basis when Wimbledon closed in the 90s.

    My resurgence came through Sky showing Elite League racing, proper live meetings, previously I had seen a couple of grand prix highlights on chanel 4 but did not like the old system, much prefer the current system and hope the qualification is extended to allow more new faces. So Sky are doing the biz with the Elite and the Grand Prix, what about the Premier league on BBC or ITV? They can't afford football, but could probably buy every speedway meeting held in this country. I know Anglia Tv used to show speedway live many years ago. Wimbledon's reopening was great news but the racing not that great, tried it three times and was not impressed. Although it seems strange going to Eastbourne on a Saturday and I don't go every week, I consider it my team. Arena Essex is closer to home but the race night is not possible for me to attend.

    With regard to characters in speedway, they are there, if not on the track, look on the terraces, the pits, the managers and most referees certainly make funny decisions.

    Finally the riders, last night I witnessed Jason Crump, (first time I have seen him live) score a faultless maximum at Eastbourne beating Nikki Pedersen four times, and Louis Bridger hopefully a future world champion. So going back to Dr Who, it was on the long drive back to my home in Sidcup that I realised I had not videoed the second part of Dr Who! "

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