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'Hero' or 'Villain'
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Is Speedway a Secret?....by Robert J. Rogers

The West Ham side of 1965

Surely speedway has been its own worst enemy? Any outsider attempting to promote speedway never seems to have got very far. Publicity is almost non-existence for the sport, even today.

When did you last see one of the presenters on breakfast television leaping up and down, with glee because a speedway team had won a match, or an ex rider talking about it? This is unlike the almost hero worship shown by some of the male presenters when the same happens in football. I am sure a certain gentleman on GMTV thinks that is the most important thing on in the morning, never mind world news!

Recently Newham council were asking for information to celebrate that it had been a London borough for forty years, since 1965, when East Ham and West Ham councils joined together.

The person asking for the information was surprised when I told her that in fact West Ham speedway had been the Triple Crown Champions that year (British league, Knock-out Cup and London cup).

She did not seem to know it even existed in the 1960`s, despite the fact we were the best team in the middle of the so-called `Swinging Sixties', supposedly the biggest change in British culture - the height of the boys in leather jackets on motorbikes, and the mini-skirted `Dolly birds`.

Outside the walls of Custom House stadium, we may as well not have existed. The team never got a Civic reception, or a parade through the street, just imagine what would have happened if the football Hammers had done the same thing, Division One title (now Premier League), FA cup, and the winner of a `round robin` of all the other first division London teams.

I know Sky does have speedway on one of its sport channels, but we do not all have Sky. Channel four tries (and sadly fails) with its coverage of the Grand Prix series, with too much 'rabbit' and too little racing (if you did not know the sport, you would assume each races lasts about one and a half laps.)

The sport will never catch the eye of Joe Public if it keeps itself to itself.

 

This article was first published on 6th May 2005


 

  • Ivan:

    "It's not a matter of speedway 'keeping itself to itself', no amount of promotion will tempt Joe Public to catch on. Because of the many and deep-seated problems inherant in league speedway, it can and will only appeal to a small minority of sports fans, who are willing to ignore its faults. Sad but true."

  • Ray Bysouth:

    "As Bob would know I was around in those halcyon days of Hammers success. I feel however Speedway will always be a bit of a Cinderella sport as there seems to be so many alternatives these day's. More of a mention in the National Press would be a help to encourage new support, but all said we will never get back to the days of eighty thousand plus at Custom House In the 1930's, with a record supporters club membership of thirty thousand plus."

  • Harry Ward:

    "Robert I couldn't agree more. 64,65,66 what a great time to be growing up as a West Ham boy. The rebirth of speedway at Custom House, the winning of the FA Cup, followed closely by the triple winning speedway team, then the European Cup winners cup and finally the Football world cup. At the time the local papers were full of praise for the Speedway team but the national media roundly ignored Speedway.

    Sadly when we reflect back we have to say good news is no news. Many great things have happened in speedway in my time but National reporting seems to be restricted to such things like The Lokeren disaster, Kenny Carters death and the race fixing story in the sunday papers.

    I suppose that we, the fans are at fault but the greatest contradiction in terms is that of the Speedway Promoter. How many Franchise owners as I prefer to call them can actually be called Promoters. BSI and Mr Postlethwaite are in a position to do really good work but sadly have no interest in the domestic side of the sport.

    So I suppose we grin and bare it and try to introduce new people to our sport with little hope in atrracting media attention to our local tracks. A defeatist attitude? I suppose so but that's another argument. "

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