Speedway: Rule-makers must make the sport 'cool' again

THE late, great actress Mae West was forthright when she said “too much of a good thing can be wonderful”.

She had clearly never been to speedway on a cold, murky night in October.

Only in the shale sport could a competition featuring so few teams you can count them on one hand start in a fresh, breezy March and finish in chilly, dank October.

But the shambles of the 2012 Knockout Cup was just one of a host of problems facing the sport’s rulers as the nights began to close in.

Speedway always heads into its winter AGM laden with more questions than answers, but, this year, the club promoters had much to ponder after a 2012 season beset by problems with the weather.

The obvious solution to the fixture backlog thrown up by the British summer? Slash the number of meetings by binning the Knockout Cup.

After the farcical scenes that saw Pirates’ semi-final opponents drawn from a hat, there really was nowhere for the competition to go in 2013 and, to the BSPA’s credit, the competition has been scrapped.

That was as sensible as the winter decision-making got, however.

With dozens of world class riders already forced away from the sport in this country due to ludicrous team-building limits (hereafter referred to generally as ‘rules) and a bulging fixture list, the powers-that-be decided to re-asses the averages of new foreign riders for 2013 – ruling out the likes of exciting youngsters Piotr Pawlicki and Bartosz Zmarzlik from racing in this country.

They join a lengthening list featuring the likes of Jason Crump, Antonio Lindback, Jarek Hampel and Greg Hancock, who would all rather earn their corn once a week in Poland and Sweden than trek around Britain’s congested motorways three times a week to ride in the Elite League.

Even for a sport that continually shoots itself in the foot, this was yet another rule for rules sake. It might level the playing field, of course, but what good is that when nobody is watching?

Indeed, so watered down has the Elite League become that it is now laughable to even call it ‘Elite’.

So, what are the answers?

All the paying public have ever asked for is a clear, concise set of rules for a sport that far too often becomes bogged down in complexity.

Doubling-up, rider replacement, guests, percentages of averages and general all-round statistics that probably bore even the riders themselves have left the sport stuck in the dark ages.

It might help the camping chair brigade, who sit in the same spot each and every week at stadiums across the country, sipping coffee from a flask and filling in their programmes.

But teenage Johnny in his Monster Energy cap, hoodie and Vans would rather stay at home on a Wednesday and play on his Playstation or watch the Champions League than be forced to bring an abacus to a sporting event.

Clubs like Poole have a loyal, dedicated supporter-base that, come rain or shine, will part with their money each and every Wednesday night.

But the real worry for the sport as a whole is who follows these die-hards in years to come.

Like it or not, Monster cap Johnny is the future of the sport.

Speedway could help itself – and it must start to do so before it withers away to nothing.

As well as the rules requiring a degree in mathmatics, potential punters would be put off by the amount of time it can take to trudge through a 15-heat meeting.

Riders returning to the pits following a crash or tapes offence must be stopped. The amount of time the riders spend ‘gardening’ on the start line before a heat must be stopped.

Moreover, fans of any sport want to support a ‘team’ – not two regulars, three guests and rider replacement. How can supporters develop any kind of affinity with their track heroes when riders from other clubs are pulling on make-shift vests to race for a pay-day?

And that is even before the winter dismantling of successful teams begins – due to, yes, you’ve guessed it, the rules.

Essentially, though, the sport needs to be made ‘cool’.

It has ‘cool’ riders like Chris Holder, Darcy Ward, Michael Jepsen Jensen and Maciej Janowski and the Elite League now needs a big-name sponsor like Red Bull or Monster Energy to take it forward, as the latter has done with the Grand Prix series.

Would those brands buy into the idea unless the promoters start listening to the fans and doing more to make the sport more appealing to the masses in this country, however?

Well, over to you, guys...

Comments (15)

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9:36pm Tue 27 Nov 12

boyerboy says...

Just think of clubs like Oxford and Reading...where is the sport going to end up ?

How about a radical move by the Pirates, why not say " nuts " to the BPSA and compete in say the POLISH league ?????

The wow factor would be amazing, just might then retain the fans and SKY......
Just think of clubs like Oxford and Reading...where is the sport going to end up ? How about a radical move by the Pirates, why not say " nuts " to the BPSA and compete in say the POLISH league ????? The wow factor would be amazing, just might then retain the fans and SKY...... boyerboy

10:25pm Tue 27 Nov 12

thereader says...

This means the BSPA (British Speedway Part-timers Association) have to do some work!

Put speedway on an effective plan for transition to change over say 3 years - like seen in sports such as MotoGP.

A 3 year plan of improvement. But it's going to need smart people with smart ideas - but it turns out if you are one of these people you have already been exiled by your peers!
This means the BSPA (British Speedway Part-timers Association) have to do some work! Put speedway on an effective plan for transition to change over say 3 years - like seen in sports such as MotoGP. A 3 year plan of improvement. But it's going to need smart people with smart ideas - but it turns out if you are one of these people you have already been exiled by your peers! thereader

11:20pm Tue 27 Nov 12

pehf1rules says...

A great piece Neil, you should forward this to The Speedway Star magazine, and see if they have the balls to publish !!!!
A great piece Neil, you should forward this to The Speedway Star magazine, and see if they have the balls to publish !!!! pehf1rules

11:34pm Tue 27 Nov 12

Ashley Miller says...

Well written Neil Meldrum. Spoken like a true speedway supporter.
The B.S.P.A. has definitely shot its self in the foot this time regards the inflated foreigners averages.
The supposed Elite League will be missing even more exiting riders for the 2013 season & guess what? Another mass fans stay at home!!!
I feel sorry for Matt Ford & co at Poole who are desperately trying to keep the Elite league going but most other promoters seem to want to finish it
Well written Neil Meldrum. Spoken like a true speedway supporter. The B.S.P.A. has definitely shot its self in the foot this time regards the inflated foreigners averages. The supposed Elite League will be missing even more exiting riders for the 2013 season & guess what? Another mass fans stay at home!!! I feel sorry for Matt Ford & co at Poole who are desperately trying to keep the Elite league going but most other promoters seem to want to finish it Ashley Miller

6:46am Wed 28 Nov 12

Daithi says...

Excellent piece Neil BUT the biggest problem with the sport is.... the promoters!
So many have their own personal agendas and the sport as a whole is of no interest to them. Yes as the BSPA they tinker with the rules, adjust the team limits up and down but generally do nothing to encourage newcomers to the sport nor it seems make any attempt to keep those supporters who brave the weather or turn up for sub-standard meetings etc hence supporters are 'being lost' by the hundreds each and every week.
What exactly could change all of this I don't really know BUT as supporters are the life blood of the sport, perhaps, just perhaps THEY could be asked for their input on the matter? They may have some good ideas and may even have some which could revolutionise the sport to boot!
Excellent piece Neil BUT the biggest problem with the sport is.... the promoters! So many have their own personal agendas and the sport as a whole is of no interest to them. Yes as the BSPA they tinker with the rules, adjust the team limits up and down but generally do nothing to encourage newcomers to the sport nor it seems make any attempt to keep those supporters who brave the weather or turn up for sub-standard meetings etc hence supporters are 'being lost' by the hundreds each and every week. What exactly could change all of this I don't really know BUT as supporters are the life blood of the sport, perhaps, just perhaps THEY could be asked for their input on the matter? They may have some good ideas and may even have some which could revolutionise the sport to boot! Daithi

9:49am Wed 28 Nov 12

kangman2012 says...

If your hoping for the BPSA to become "cool" Neil, and to start thinking about the hands that feed it (eg. the long-suffering supporters) then the well-known phrase "hell will have to freeze over" comes to mind. As much as some promoters spout on about their "concerns" over the sport, their sole interest is to make money, and as long as that is the case then like many other so-called "professional" sports the supporters and to some extent the participants will have to take a back seat!
If your hoping for the BPSA to become "cool" Neil, and to start thinking about the hands that feed it (eg. the long-suffering supporters) then the well-known phrase "hell will have to freeze over" comes to mind. As much as some promoters spout on about their "concerns" over the sport, their sole interest is to make money, and as long as that is the case then like many other so-called "professional" sports the supporters and to some extent the participants will have to take a back seat! kangman2012

9:59am Wed 28 Nov 12

QP-retired says...

Great article. There are too many Club promoters living in the past. However, making major changes in a time of economic recession is a risky business.
Maybe the sport in general has to take a temporary 'step back', re-group to what it can afford (with any top clubs joining a super league if they wish) in one big league - a mix of the rest of the Elite and Premier clubs - and then come back stronger! Also to attract new youngsters to the sport - offer free admission to 'accompanied youngsters' and do away with the old age concessions!Radical? maybe........
Great article. There are too many Club promoters living in the past. However, making major changes in a time of economic recession is a risky business. Maybe the sport in general has to take a temporary 'step back', re-group to what it can afford (with any top clubs joining a super league if they wish) in one big league - a mix of the rest of the Elite and Premier clubs - and then come back stronger! Also to attract new youngsters to the sport - offer free admission to 'accompanied youngsters' and do away with the old age concessions!Radical? maybe........ QP-retired

10:02am Wed 28 Nov 12

kangman2012 says...

kangman2012 wrote:
If your hoping for the BPSA to become "cool" Neil, and to start thinking about the hands that feed it (eg. the long-suffering supporters) then the well-known phrase "hell will have to freeze over" comes to mind. As much as some promoters spout on about their "concerns" over the sport, their sole interest is to make money, and as long as that is the case then like many other so-called "professional" sports the supporters and to some extent the participants will have to take a back seat!
Sorry - BSPA, oops!
[quote][p][bold]kangman2012[/bold] wrote: If your hoping for the BPSA to become "cool" Neil, and to start thinking about the hands that feed it (eg. the long-suffering supporters) then the well-known phrase "hell will have to freeze over" comes to mind. As much as some promoters spout on about their "concerns" over the sport, their sole interest is to make money, and as long as that is the case then like many other so-called "professional" sports the supporters and to some extent the participants will have to take a back seat![/p][/quote]Sorry - BSPA, oops! kangman2012

10:10am Wed 28 Nov 12

piratefan86 says...

How about this for rules?

1. 20 meetings per year. No Playoffs. The team with the most points at the end of the season wins. Top 4 play for the Knockout cup.

2. No Averages, but balanced teams.

3. If a race stops and there is no need for a delay, the 2 minutes goes on, riders back to the tapes.

4. Keep the tactical double points rule.

An excellent article Mr. Meldrum. Can you please stand for BSPA Chairman?

Sincerely, a massine Poole Pirates and speedway fan. :)
How about this for rules? 1. 20 meetings per year. No Playoffs. The team with the most points at the end of the season wins. Top 4 play for the Knockout cup. 2. No Averages, but balanced teams. 3. If a race stops and there is no need for a delay, the 2 minutes goes on, riders back to the tapes. 4. Keep the tactical double points rule. An excellent article Mr. Meldrum. Can you please stand for BSPA Chairman? Sincerely, a massine Poole Pirates and speedway fan. :) piratefan86

10:58am Wed 28 Nov 12

Matt Teague says...

So the powers that be think the AGM went well.......
Says it all really!
No to the rider share for number 1's which may see Crump,Jonsson,Lindba
ck,Hancock plus more return.
Now introduced a new 'assessment' average for the FUTURE riders of British speedway.
But we have seen the door open more on PL riders doubling up! Fantastic news. No more top riders coming or the best young talent around the world. Instead we can look forward to seeing the likes of Kling & Drmyls and many more riders who have never made it here and never will.
The product is now even weaker, and the difference between the number 1 and 7 in each team is now even wider.
Darcy wanted more if a challenge in this country, all he has got now is a few more PL riders to beat.
Speedway will never change while the old guard are still serving.
They dislike change of any sort, they all kept saying the number 1 share would not work. Why not try it for 1 year and see what happens? They may have been surprised with the response from GP riders coming over?
I have followed Poole for around 20 years now, 18 of those as a season ticket holder. But the question I have to ask am I getting value for money now?
I don’t think so anymore, and with other sports in Dorset and Hampshire offering more value for money to watch them, will people now start to look elsewhere for their weekly sport fix?
I definitely will now be picking and choosing which meetings I will attend next season.
Sad times for British Speedway which was already on its knees.
Politics have now ruined it, and it’s no longer all about track action. Some promoters only think new rules would benefit a handful of clubs and while that goes on nothing will change.
The sport in general needs to start looking after the loyal fans it has now, as I can’t see where the future ones are coming from at present. If they don’t then the current loyal pack will soon disembark and look for other sporting entertainment.
This time next year they will all be reporting financial trouble and lower gate numbers……
Wake up British speedway and listen to what the fans want for a change before it’s too late!
So the powers that be think the AGM went well....... Says it all really! No to the rider share for number 1's which may see Crump,Jonsson,Lindba ck,Hancock plus more return. Now introduced a new 'assessment' average for the FUTURE riders of British speedway. But we have seen the door open more on PL riders doubling up! Fantastic news. No more top riders coming or the best young talent around the world. Instead we can look forward to seeing the likes of Kling & Drmyls and many more riders who have never made it here and never will. The product is now even weaker, and the difference between the number 1 and 7 in each team is now even wider. Darcy wanted more if a challenge in this country, all he has got now is a few more PL riders to beat. Speedway will never change while the old guard are still serving. They dislike change of any sort, they all kept saying the number 1 share would not work. Why not try it for 1 year and see what happens? They may have been surprised with the response from GP riders coming over? I have followed Poole for around 20 years now, 18 of those as a season ticket holder. But the question I have to ask am I getting value for money now? I don’t think so anymore, and with other sports in Dorset and Hampshire offering more value for money to watch them, will people now start to look elsewhere for their weekly sport fix? I definitely will now be picking and choosing which meetings I will attend next season. Sad times for British Speedway which was already on its knees. Politics have now ruined it, and it’s no longer all about track action. Some promoters only think new rules would benefit a handful of clubs and while that goes on nothing will change. The sport in general needs to start looking after the loyal fans it has now, as I can’t see where the future ones are coming from at present. If they don’t then the current loyal pack will soon disembark and look for other sporting entertainment. This time next year they will all be reporting financial trouble and lower gate numbers…… Wake up British speedway and listen to what the fans want for a change before it’s too late! Matt Teague

12:14pm Wed 28 Nov 12

oldlegtrailer says...

I would like to personally thank the Poole riders who whinged so much about numbers of meetings per annum in the UK that we are now all doomed to 14 home league meetings per annum. When the Polish league goes belly up (they have some financIal issues don't worry) and they want to come back to the UK to make their living full time, half of the current supporters will not be around and nor will the small amounts of cash still coming in now. 2013 will see a drop in support cos the format is too boring.
I would like to personally thank the Poole riders who whinged so much about numbers of meetings per annum in the UK that we are now all doomed to 14 home league meetings per annum. When the Polish league goes belly up (they have some financIal issues don't worry) and they want to come back to the UK to make their living full time, half of the current supporters will not be around and nor will the small amounts of cash still coming in now. 2013 will see a drop in support cos the format is too boring. oldlegtrailer

12:19pm Wed 28 Nov 12

oldlegtrailer says...

After reading above article the camping chair brigade are the few that are left and to be honest the sport is on the verge of losing them. When they go maybe SKY will as well. Who wants to watch TV with no live spectators in the background. Speedway will never attract Johnny with his Monster Energy hat because the BSPA appear to lack innovation and any idea as to how to grow the sport
After reading above article the camping chair brigade are the few that are left and to be honest the sport is on the verge of losing them. When they go maybe SKY will as well. Who wants to watch TV with no live spectators in the background. Speedway will never attract Johnny with his Monster Energy hat because the BSPA appear to lack innovation and any idea as to how to grow the sport oldlegtrailer

8:10pm Wed 28 Nov 12

racingalfa says...

the only time the right changes will
be made is when they get some younger members on the committee just think they keep thinking about the lesser teams in the elite league to help them survive but if they can't afford the riders to strengthen up they shouldn't be in the league been a Poole supporter for nearly 30 years and think 2012 was the worst as far as rider quality goes except for the top 3 which were brilliant .
the only time the right changes will be made is when they get some younger members on the committee just think they keep thinking about the lesser teams in the elite league to help them survive but if they can't afford the riders to strengthen up they shouldn't be in the league been a Poole supporter for nearly 30 years and think 2012 was the worst as far as rider quality goes except for the top 3 which were brilliant . racingalfa

8:45pm Wed 28 Nov 12

hammer83 says...

The only time there will be any chanhe is if Sky go this is what's happening like it or **** off to the Prem league......
But they wont cos they know they are dealing with a bunch of **** heads who live in a past that never existed
The only time there will be any chanhe is if Sky go this is what's happening like it or **** off to the Prem league...... But they wont cos they know they are dealing with a bunch of **** heads who live in a past that never existed hammer83

10:31pm Wed 28 Nov 12

darcyknows says...

ALL respect to KYLE HOWARTH but as POOLE'S first signing it say's it all ,i won't be paying £xx pounds to watch 15 min's of 2nd rate racing.
ALL respect to KYLE HOWARTH but as POOLE'S first signing it say's it all ,i won't be paying £xx pounds to watch 15 min's of 2nd rate racing. darcyknows

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