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A Clear Response to Dangerous Riding
By Rod Young


For the first time I've managed to successfully explain the offside rule in football to my wife. Firstly, it helps if you know which side you are supporting. Then the rule is quiet simple: if an opposition player has the ball in your side's penalty area then he is offside; conversely, if a player from your side has the ball in the opposition's penalty area then he is onside. See it's simple - just as I said it was!

Now for speedway. The rules relating to unfair riding are categorised as follows: "All four back" - that is that no rule is broken as long as the second bend has not been negotiated, even though there are four bodies sprawled across the cinder; and then the "All fall down rule" - which means that the geezer on the deck past turn two is responsible for depriving the paying public of a decent race and even though he was squeezed into an area the size of a cigarette paper he needs to be given the heave-ho and excluded. That's the view from the shed on the roof - or wherever they've put the referee's box. From a fan's point of view it's very similar to the offside rule situation, which I've just explained: opposition rider is dirty and probably Danish and our good, upstanding and virtuous home rider is hard and exciting and above all is a personality who draws the punters in. Who is the villain of the piece depends on who you are supporting.

The consequences of poor refereeing is stark. In football a bad offside could cost in extreme cases millions. In speedway poor refereeing might only cost a career or, thankfully rarely these days, a life. What we cannot forget as fans is that it's a very dangerous sport. The point really is that it seems ludicrous to me that there seems to be no way that a rider pumped up and riding dangerously can be warned or sanctioned to behave in subsequent rides. You've dumped Smartypants from the opposition by turning a few degrees right on the first bend then you start on a ten yard back line in the re-run. A gob full of cinder, I am sure, could do wonders for that rush of blood to the head. Next time round you give Smartypants a nudge towards the bouncy castle thingy and you are yellow carded for the meeting, excluded from the current race and made to start your next race ten yards back. OK, so this might not be the best solution but something has to be done.

I'm a Bees supporter so I'm riding this hobby horse because of Rory Schlein and Morten Risager's injuries this season? Wrong! It's something I've thought about since watching the British Championship final a few seasons ago when Lee Richardson - who I was supporting as a Bees rider - fenced Mark Loram. What Loram was doing was totally audacious. He was trying to pass a rider of roughly comparable speed by racing the dirt on the outside of the track to pass a rider who on a parallel line. A few degrees right by Richardson and Loram was riding the fag paper into the fence and another injury. If we want to see good riders make passing manoeuvres to delight spectators then we need to have a clear response to dangerous riding. We now have the air fences to make racing safer and hopefully more exciting. I hope that we will have referees who will do the same.


This article was first published on 28th June 2005


  • Bill Elliot:

    "Agree pretty much with Rod Young's comments - I still remember vividly watching a rider die on track all of 33 years ago and while it had nothing to do with fencing or any other form of foul riding the facts of the matter are simple-every time (fortunately not too often, I think) a rider puts another at unnecessary risk then they are simply putting a life on the line. It's not the fault of a referee that such a situation arises but they do have a responsibility (and the power) to help stamp it out by coming down heavily on anyone who does so.

    I certainly wouldn't want to think that if I was a referee I didn't take action which put a very firm message across and help reduce the chance of another rider losing his life. If you've seen a rider die on track, you will know exactly what I mean. Again without naming names, I do recall at Paisley in 1975 a VERY famous rider of the time being excluded from the meeting in Heat 1 for dangerous riding, and the reaction towards the referee was "What, you can't do that!" but he could and he had the guts to do it. That's the message to get across to those who think they can get away with it, whether it's a Conference League fixture or a Grand Prix round. As long as any rider thinks the worst they will get is a 15 metre penalty, if they're prepared to do it in the first place they consider it worth the risk.

    So make the penalty unpalatable - get yourself suspended from a couple of meetings for repeated offences of dangerous riding and what sort of career will you have?"

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