Take your time reading this as it’s a long one and please read the article too.
I feel we must respond to the article below in this week’s Speedway Star, not to cause confrontation but it is very clear that the BSPL and National League Co-ordinator still do not understand why Martin and I took the decision to leave the NL and BSPL. So here goes.
It is correct to state that we do not agree with the 35 point limit, but more importantly we do not agree with how this limit was imposed on the league without discussion or agreement of the NL members at an AGM or any other meeting. It is also true to say that during the 2019 NL AGM, the Chairman of the BSPL in heated discussion about the then attempt to reduce the points limit from 39 to 37, told NL clubs “well it’s coming, the NL will revert to like the Conference League”…. And that was it, it was a statement of change, not a method to change and how that method would be achieved.
It is not true to say that we were made aware of what was happening before 2021. At the 2019 NL AGM, yes, we were told, as detailed in the NL AGM minutes that the Chairman reiterated that the league will be tailored more to a development league but being a development league does not mean you must reduce the point limit.
Even with a year of no racing, so time to discuss plans, theorise how to implement any such changes that were in place, the next time there was any communication on how the NL will be run was in February 2021 when we received an email with the following statement in “The Board of Directors have discussed, at length, the NDL and agreed the following changes to the current regulations …… regulations listed” and finished with “if you wish to participate in the NDL with these regulations please respond so that you can participate in a zoom call to discuss who will be taking part and NL fixtures…” There was no option to ask questions, which we obviously wanted to do, just a simple statement of are you in or out. None the less, we did ask some questions.
We asked if the practice of the Board of Directors deciding the rules will continue at the end of this season. Response – could not confirm this but would look to league members to have an input going forward.
We asked if Mr. Len Silver attended any meetings in which this was discussed – no answer.
We asked if we had additional restrictions on the IOW like fewer ferry crossings and could not fulfil our fixtures that we would not be fined –Response - that could not be guaranteed.
So, you see while we do not believe in the 35 point limit, equally we were not allowed to discuss it, buy in to it, share our opinion as to why it could have a terrible effect on our business, offer advice as a club that runs NL speedway how we think it should be. If we had, and still did not agree with 35 points, we probably would be still in the BSPL with our license on hold looking forward.
Furthermore, the 35 points limit is a perceived short-term fix and yet it has clearly increased the number of mid average riders being pushed out of the league just when they need to push on with more competitive racing to step up to CL standard and when all the teams are announced, how many new riders are introduced this year who were not already named in 2020 line-ups?
The article states “the points limit was the will of every PL/CL promoter to implement these changes” – will the Chairman prove that? And if it is the case - doesn’t this mean clubs who’s second team are NL should not be included due to conflict of interest? Will he also prove that the NL representative Mr Len Silver attended, or was invited to attend these meetings during which the NL was discussed, as per the reason for creating that position, and if he was why wasn’t these messages passed on to NL members.
Let us now analyse why were we told in 2019 about the desire to change but heard nothing about the method of change until just before we had to agree to it to be involved. As we said earlier during the 2019 NL AGM, it was said that there was a requirement to bring the league to be more like the Conference League. However, at the time the reasoning for change had nothing to do with rider development and everything to do with wage costs for those riders exiting the NL and going up to the CL. Why? In the National League a rider can earn X but, in the Championship, unless that rider has a guarantee he may well earn less. Meaning NL riders looking to progress to the higher leagues (and leave the NL with no double-up) ideally need a guaranteed amount to be able to do so. This “guarantee” is not out of greed but so as to not affect their income as they turn professional and stepping away from semi-professional/amateur. The problem with this is we were told CL clubs feel this level of pay is too high for them to commit to provide a comparable income. So, in short the plan was to take semi-professional riders, make their status professional to earn less.
Our view is that any points limit change has in reality nothing to do with producing riders at all because the NL has done (and will continue to do) a great job in this regard plus natural talent will make it regardless of a NL or not. So if we now look to the view of costs, the only way to reduce cost is to have more supply than demand (more riders than jobs) and you achieve this by encouraging new clubs and teams to join with a structure of development – Speedway School, MDL, NL, CL, PL plus of course the Youth Series and amateur tracks. What you don’t do is cut off the very supply of your next riders.
Let’s also touch on Kent and Plymouth applying to go up in the Championship because of the NL changes. As far as we know, this is not true. Neither club would have known the changes to be implemented as they were only decided and communicated in February. Kent have stated for some years, depending on planning, it had been their wish to go up and Plymouth applied in 2020 only to be denied, before any changes were imposed or decided, before a successful application this year following Somersets exit.
Then there is the comment that PL/CL clubs subsidise the NL. This has been a bone of contention at every AGM we have attended and at every NL AGM, especially requested by Mr. Len Silver an explanation of this statement was requested and never supplied. They say the NL has reduced BSPL Fees – true, but standalone clubs are not full members only Associates Members and receive no TV money (so now the only club in the sport to receive no TV money is Mildenhall). They state we have reduced referee’s fees. That is true, but these are charged by the SCB not the BSPL and it is the referee’s contribution to grassroots league speedway. They will say our insurance is cheaper – again true, but only because the benefits are much less than in the other two leagues. So, please, if as the BSPL say they subsidise the NL – tell us how so that clubs can understand the valuable contribution it makes to the sport, because the answers we have been given at the AGMs we attended stated it was because: That’s why you don’t get TV money, It pays for your fee reduction, You get it cheaper because you are Associates and don’t have full membership rights… the list of “reasons” goes on.
The new National League at 35 points will develop riders, for sure it will, but it will not develop any more than it always has. So why would Martin and I let decisions imposed upon us, that will not produce more riders moving into the Championship than previous years, risk our business, our product, our fans entertainment, and our credibility? There is no just reason, because the only benefit is the perceived view that CL will start to pay less for their reserves, which if doubling up to the National League is prevented, has a very low likelihood of being a successful strategy.
Our view is, if the BSPL truly wanted to
develop they would have invested a percentage of the TV money (and other revenue streams) into the grassroots and youth of the sport instead of spending on ever increasing wage bills. For example, if you look at the US and its new stimulus package, everyone who works in finance expects the result of this to be inflation solely because there is extra money in everyone’s pocket to spend. Now back to our sport, the BSPL announce they have a TV deal and what happens? Wage expectation goes up because clubs have cash to spend when the BSPL should investing in youth, stadia (invest in an asset and build the sport on it), promotion, advertising but our sport spends it on short term, “quick wins” and investment that has zero return for the organisation. They could also make commitments in higher leagues to have 3 riders for example under 21, or an experience restriction in the NL for example number of meetings at certain levels, or every UK club staging second halves, but restrict the travel to get there to encourage more local riders and for sure, bring back nomadic clubs in the MDL.
The last thing to say on this report…. Where in the report is there any reference to you the fans, to your night out, to your club, to your investment both financially and emotionally? Do you feel like you have been taken into consideration with the new league?
All the best and Tomorrow will be a better day
Barry and Martin.