After the Second World War, austerity was the watchword of the day. It wasn't just food and clothing that was rationed, entertainment was too. With people desperate for something to contrast the dull daily grind speedway flourished. In 1946 over 600,000 people went through the turnstiles at Wimbledon. The 12 league teams reported an aggregate profit of £160,000 (equivalent to £4.5 million today). Seeing the opportunity to profit from the sport's new-found popularity, dozens of applications to open new tracks reached the speedway authorities. By the start of 1951 the number of league teams had risen from 12 to 37.
Potential new applicants had to overcome two hurdles. The first was to get a licence from the Speedway Control Board, but permission was also required from the Home Office. The Government feared that leisure activities might undermine industrial production and frowned on weekday tracks in particular.
The list of applicants for 1947 makes interesting reading. Among those granted permission were pre-war venues such as Harringay (the original Racers) and Southampton, and new tracks like Cradley Heath. Among the unsuccessful applicants were Charlton, Crewe, Peterborough, Yarmouth, Staines and Reading.
The following year Reading again appeared on the list of 18 applicants for a licence to stage speedway. Among the hopefuls were Leicester, Worksop, Poole, Coventry, Romford and Leeds.
Come 1949, and again Reading failed to get a licence, unlike Swindon and Oxford. Swindon, originally granted an open licence, replaced Hull in the league mid-season.
'Tears & Glory' - page 10