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tmc

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tmc last won the day on January 14

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  • Birthday 04/09/1960

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  1. tmc

    SPEEDWAY MAIL.

    Indeed, that is what we are now doing in each issue of Backtrack. Interviewees/subjects have so far included: Ian MacDonald, John Chaplin, Martin Rogers and now Don Allen.
  2. BACKCHAT FROM our next issue (No. 91) we will be introducing a regular new feature called BACKCHAT, where readers get the chance to fire questions at our main columnist MARTIN ROGERS. As one of the leading promoters and most respected administrators of the Backtrack era, no-one is better qualified to respond to questions about the burning issues of the 70s and 80s. They don't have to be just about the tracks at which he promoted, King's Lynn, Leicester and Peterborough. He is also 'up' for tackling all the wide-ranging issues from that special period. So, please email your questions as soon as possible to us at editorial@retro-speedway.com. Type 'BACKCHAT' in the subject line, be sure to include your full name . . . and we'll forward them on to MR. Martin's responses will appear in issue 91 and from then on . . .
  3. ISSUE 90 (JANUARY - FEBRUARY, 2019) Issue 90 is on sale and here's a flavour of what to expect . . . THE MONEY MEN One of many elements missing from modern speedway is the excitement of the transfer market. When the old rider control system was phased out, and a points limit instituted, it soon coincided with a decade in which buying and selling of riders was much in vogue – and, as he recalls here, MARTIN ROGERS was king of the wheeler-dealers. We also list the biggest movers of the 1970-89 period, all riders who were involved in transfer deals in excess of £10,000. SON OF MY FATHER: KYM & IVAN MAUGER In the first of a regular new series, RICHARD BOTT talks to the man who had the impossible task of trying to follow in the tyre tracks of the legend widely regarded as the greatest-ever speedway rider. Kym Mauger, who had spells with Newcastle and Glasgow in the 80s, opens up about life with his famous dad, Ivan. THAT WAS THE YEAR: 1983 ANDREW SKEELS reflects on a year in which double winners Cradley Heath ruled the top sphere, Newcastle regained the National League title, Denmark began a long unbroken spell of world domination, Egon Müller became the home track hero, while Leicester suffered a crushing, terminal blow. SCUNTHORPE: 50 Memorable Moments They were tagged 'unfashionable' and endured many seasons of struggle but as ROB PEASLEY records, Scunthorpe were once led by a Scottish legend and, in more recent times, a future three times World Champion. CHRIS MARTIN – Exclusive interview Not even a bad injury that ended his brief British racing career can spoil Chris Martin's happy memories with Weymouth in the early 80s, when he was 'living the dream'. PHIL CHARD catches up with a former referee, GP start marshal and friend of the Briggs family. THE WRITE STUFF – DON ALLEN As TONY McDONALD and others who knew the creator of the groundbreaking Speedway Stop Press observe, they don't make journalists like this innovative, diligent, honourable gentleman anymore. DAG LOVAAS – Exclusive interview A recent emotional visitor to Oxford Stadium was Norwegian Dag Lovaas, the No.1 for Rebels in 1975, who was making his first return to his former track since riding in an inter-league four team tournament at Cowley in 1976. THE LATE SHOW The British speedway season is officially meant to end on the final day of October. But, as DOUG NICOLSON explains, extensions into November – even for less important fixtures – were by no means unusual. To order this issue or subscribe, please visit www.retro-speedway.com
  4. tmc

    SPEEDWAY MAIL.

    Firstly, sorry that I have only just seen your 16-year-old comment! What a lovely man your father, Bruce Grainger, was. Loved his laid-back approach, great sense of humour and his professionalism when supplying copy and pics during my time as editor of Speedway Mail. Yes, he was one of the first to write AND take his own photos to complement his words. We really looked forward to his weekly package arriving at the Mail office. No email or digital images in those days, of course, so he had to type up his copy (always nicely spaced out for the benefit of our typesetters), print up his pics and then pop them in the post to us. Bruce had a great eye for the offbeat and unusual pic too, so his contributions were always interesting. Attending his funeral was a sad occasion, because his passing came so suddenly (heart attack, if I recall?). He was a great loss to the Mail and I had to be there to pay my last respects to a very likeable, humble guy. While talking of the Mail, we have covered its rise and fall in considerable depth in past issues of Backtrack. But last summer I was delighted to catch up with and interview founding editor Ian MacDonald for our new 'The Write Stuff' column (issue 87), in which we talk to journos who have covered the sport. Ian gave a fascinating insight into the period 1973-78 (when John Hyam worked part-time shifts there) and explained all the issues raised earlier in this thread about the paper's struggles to gain readership and the obstacles it had to try and overcome. You can order this back issue here at www.retro-speedway.com
  5. If it's true that the new Peterborough promoter(s) have pulled the plug on Bomber Harris' signing for financial reasons, then perhaps at least one club is coming to its senses in refusing to pay out what it cannot afford. Or is there another side to this story...?
  6. Because what promoters can really afford is so low, due to poor crowds, lack of big sponsors and large overheads, by definition riders (certainly in the lower two leagues) would inevitably become amateur/part-time.
  7. I have it on very good authority that the highest earning Leyton Orient player (they are currently National League - tier 5 - leaders) earns around £2,000 per week. The rest of the 24-man first team squad will be on anything between that and £500 per week. Some NL clubs are full-time, others part-time. But at Orient they are all full-time professionals, with no additional job. Home crowds average between 4,500-5,000. Now if speedway riders were performing in front of crowds of 4,000-5,000 they would be entitled to earn circa £2k per meeting. But no club in British speedway is drawing that many; and most not even half that attendance figure.
  8. Promoters need saving from themselves. You can only assume that in some cases the speedway losses are actually viewed as tax losses from an individual's main source of revenue, otherwise why would they do it? Trouble is, those who treat a speedway club as a mere hobby, their 'play thing' and the chance to suddenly become a big fish in a tiny pool, invariably leave a trail of destruction and others to try and pick up the pieces. I remember Simmo telling me how he and Bill Barker made huge mistakes paying several of their King's Lynn riders way above what they could really afford - speculating to accumulate. It backfired big-time. And that was 32 years ago.
  9. Phil, the point I was trying to make is that the non-league club I've referred to does not pay out more in player/manager/coaching staff wages than it takes in revenue, so its cloth is cut accordingly to ensure they remain in business. Just because - and we all agree - riders face increasing and high running costs, it doesn't mean promoters (and, indirectly, fans) should keep financing those overheads. If they do, there will be only one outcome: more and more tracks going the way of Rye House, Buxton and Workington, and whoever else is next... So, a combination of drastically reduced riders' costs, and in turn the wages they need to compete, is paramount if league speedway in the UK is to have a credible future.
  10. Following on from the debate that began yesterday in which I advocated that British speedway needs to drastically cut its cloth and 'go amateur' to survive in the short term . . . I've spoken with a good friend, the owner of a successful Essex-based non-league football club that currently operates in Bostik League (North). In fairness to him, we will not name the club here but all figures below are accurate (he is an accountant by profession!). While it is not appropriate to make many direct comparisons with speedway, due mainly to the fact that the club owns its ground and therefore benefits from bar and catering revenue, there are some interesting aspects that perhaps speedway - especially at NL level - can learn from. Here are some financial facts: * The club averages 300 paying supporters per game. * Admission price structure is: Adults £10, Concessions £5, Young Persons (aged 16-21) £5, Under-16s FREE. * Playing squad is 16 players (all part-time) and total annual players' wage bill is £35k. Wages range from £150 per week for star men to £25 for rookie players. They all have 9-to-5 jobs. * Management/coaching staff (all part-time) total annual wage bill is £15k. * Club receives £60k per season in sponsorship. * Club takes £21k per year in bar profits (as well as match day income, they rent the facilities out for weddings and other functions). * £150 per game profit from programme sales (it's printed free by a fan). * Annual turnover is £250k, of which £120k is bar/catering/function room revenue. * Club has no debt and expects to at least break-even each year. As you can see, the bar/function room is a major factor. But the playing and staff costs are in line with revenues based on an average gate of 300 and other income. Above all, the club operates within its means. I accept that a more meaningful comparison could be made involving a National League (level 5) football club but at least the above figures give some food for thought.
  11. When debating the future of speedway, we must also recognise that the sport's current plight is not just the result of BSPA failings and riders' costs. Like other sports, leisure entertainments and especially the dwindling high streets of cities and towns all over GB, it has been affected by the UK economy. Many regular speedway fans will have had been made redundant or seen their social benefits cut in recent years, so their already limited disposable incomes have seriously diminished. Many others are hanging onto their jobs by a thread and fearing the worst, so they too are tightening the purse strings. We at Retro Speedway have felt the effects of this first-hand. I'll be honest. Our revenue from sales in the 8-week pre-Christmas period for 2018 was 30% (THIRTY) down on the same period of the previous year, even though we had more products available to purchase. I think our regular followers on the BSF, Facebook and Twitter would agree that we hardly lack marketing thrust, and push all our products with as much zeal as possible. In the run up to Xmas, we placed regular, prominent full-page adverts in Speedway Star, who are also being hit by issues beyond our control. It would be understandable if Speedway Star's readership decreased in line with shrinking attendances. But it's not as if what we produce has anything to do with modern speedway. What we do is pretty timeless. But clearly not immune to the financial reality of the world. You might argue that our 2018 products were not good, or didn't represent good value. But I don't believe that is the case and feedback from customers would suggest this is not so. The reason is one of simple economics. And obviously, Brexit has only added to people's growing insecurities and uncertainty. Speedway will no doubt feel these continuing adverse effects in ever-dwindling season ticket and admission receipts when the new season starts in March.
  12. Costs have not been cut sufficiently, that's the trouble. Riders, performing in front of only hundreds of fans, raking in money that cannot be sustained. So here we are.
  13. Today's bad news that Workington have withdrawn from the 2019 Championship (second tier), despite winning the treble last season, should provoke the BSPA into a crisis meeting. In our last issue of Backtrack (No.89) we listed 56 British league venues that have closed since 1970. Since the edition came out, the loss of Rye House, Buxton and now Workington has seen the death toll rise to 59. It is doubtful if any will ever resume league status. If the Comets, a track that opened in 1970, cannot sustain second division speedway after winning three trophies, what chance does the sport in this country have of survival? Glasgow have arguably the best PR machine in the sport behind them right now, earning lots of national coverage in Scotland and beyond. They have invested heavily in riders. But where has it got them? Their owner's recent statement should be taken as another warning shot. No-one can be surprised if the Tigers' management don't decide to cut their losses and come to the conclusion that they've given it their best shot but enough is enough. The odds on them coming to the tapes for 2020 must already be slim, or lengthening. Leicester, Rye House in recent times have found to their cost that chucking good money at top riders is no recipe for success and, more likely, a quick path to financial disaster. I was especially alarmed by the recent announcement that Buxton, the archetypal third division venue where many a young Brit was discovered, has pulled out of the National league due to unsustainable rising costs. They have been around for years but, sadly, have been betrayed by their own peers - the third division glory-hunters who ignored the ethos of what was meant to be a training, development league for young British riders in pursuit of silverware. Buxton's withdrawal should have served as a neon warning sign to the sport's governing body but their story seems to have been glossed over, ignored, outside Derbyshire. What are experienced 'old hands' doing nicking a living from a league meant for novices trying to learn the game? If there isn't already an age or experience limit, the Nl should impose one so that only one rider per team is over, say, 25. And NO-ONE who has any real experience of top flight or Div 2 racing should be occupying a team place. So what should happen to stem the tide? BRITISH SPEEDWAY has to become amateur, riders must go part-time and return to the days of the old BL1 and BL2/NL of the 60s, 70s & 80s, when many racers had a day job to supplement their speedway earnings, or vice-versa. If today's riders are performing in front of mere hundreds of spectators, rather than thousands, then they are really operating in an amateur sport and should not be paid as professionals. Speedway needs to take a long, hard look at itself and reality must finally kick in. Most non-league football teams are part-time. Players train Tuesdays and Thursdays and play Saturdays and midweek. They fit it in around their 9-to-5 job. Speedway riders must accept how small what they do really is in terms of spectator sports. As former Ellesmere Port middle order rider Duncan Meredith says: "Most of us back in my day had a job and my job subsidised my racing. We loved racing - the money was just a bonus." It's time to go back to those days. A backward step? Not if it stabilises the sport in the immediate short-term and enables it to survive and weather the current UK economic storm. Promoters need protecting from themselves and stop burying their heads in the sand. They must stop 'thinking big' - look where that got Leicester, Rye House and Glasgow, among others, in recent times and by propping up the Premiership Buster Chapman is merely applying a tiny sticking plaster to a large, gaping wound requiring major surgery. The BSPA has to start thinking SMALL and apply self-imposed reality checks that are long overdue. Scale down budgets to realistic levels and don't pay out more than you take at the turnstiles and sponsorship. It's simple economics of life. There is a chronic rider shortage across the board, the use of guests and R/R has escalated out of all proportion. I'd love to see a study of how many DIFFERENT riders appeared in each of the 3 divisions last season, and another list showing how many appeared for multiple clubs. The result would be eye-bulgingly horrific. So come up with a revised race format for six or even five-men teams. Six-men teams were used in the 60s and in the top flight in 1998. If there aren't enough riders to fill 7-men teams, then change the format. Doubling-up is killing what little credibility British speedway has left. If, in 10 years, British speedway has unearthed a new wave of young talent, then a return to 7-men teams can be considered. Until then, the BSPA must immediately go into crisis-survival mode, cut its cloth accordingly and stop paying out money to riders that it simply cannot afford, before more tracks are lost forever. Of course, reducing team members and changing race formats won't bring many, if any, new fans through the turnstiles. But what it will definitely help to do is RETAIN the current, rapidly declining fan base. Promoters should stop thinking of ways to try and lure a new, younger supporters (if any do), because 98% of teenagers will never be interested in speedway, and focus fully on keeping their existing customers.
  14. Thanks to those who have already responded with a question for Martin - some very valid points raised. Please keep 'em coming . . .
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