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tmc

Time British Speedway went AMATEUR

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Amen to TMC.

It must have been 2-3 years ago now I read in the Speedway Star on some CL novice on how he was investing in getting his bikes tuned by Mike Lee.  

a) learn to ride a bit better before you do that
b) learn to tune and engine yourself if you must
c) where are you getting the money to pay for a former World Champion to work for you?! - ultimately from the punter, as the sparse terraces they stand on crumble around them

As others have said, you can't blame the riders for trying to get the best deal possible each year. It's a dangerous sport and a short career. But if they are not bringing in the revenue to the clubs, then the sport has to cut its cloth - pay them what is affordable and sustainable. You can go back to the Nielsens, Crumps, Adams and such like...all made a decent living out of British Speedway (and fair play to them), but whilst they were taking their fat pay cheques, the crowds were dwindling and there was less and less to invest in the long-term health of the sport.

There are so many factors inside and outside speedway that make it a very challenging environment for any speedway promoter. The key audiences of working class to middle class young families that promoters crave have less disposable income than ever before and much greater choice over where they ultimately decide to spend what they do have. Live sport is now available on tap online and virtually the whole of the rest of the leisure sector can offer a more comfortable, safe, modern environment for families.

So, it has to compete really hard to get people to fork out. I agree the sport should be not be paying full-time professional wages. I also agree that it needs one big league. But I doubt those improvements would be enough to bring crowds back. I think the sport has to be more radical and offer families a proper full day out on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. If this means partnering with other sports and activities like sidecars, stockcars, greyhounds, flat track alongside bands and fairground rides, face painters, beer tents and making it a full day of entertainment, then that constitutes much, much better value.

Like any other live entertainment, speedway needs footprint and once they are in and the longer you keep them, the greater chance of shifting food, drink, merchandise and the rest to the punters. The chances of 15 heats of league speedway attracting a good crowd on a weekly basis now or in the future are slim to none. And, well, we know where slim went...

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If you go for amateur Speedway or even paying less than it costs to ride you will say goodbye to league Speedway. NL riders may do it when they are trying to get in a higher league but it doesn't take long to run out of money.

I keep seeing that riders should have full time jobs and race Speedway like in the 'good old days'. Great idea but in todays job market just how many jobs can fit in with riders travelling on various days and taking spells out injured? In the past Speedway was a big enough sport that many employers would take on riders and make allowances for their sport because it gave them some involvement, these days most employers don't know what Speedway is. I know my lad went through a variety of jobs trying to find one that fitted and I had to completely change my career to cart him around for NL Speedway. We didn't pay anybody to work on his bikes as I did the motors but the travelling and time off work hit hard, took me as long to recover financially after he gave up as he was riding for.

Also don't underestimate what riders could earn in the past, only last year Les Collins was telling me how when he first raced Speedway he could earn as much or more as a second half rider as he could as an apprentice. I used to work for Jimmy Squibb and he made a very nice living out of Speedway while being the equivalent of a third heat leader today I would guess.

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41 minutes ago, Vince said:

I keep seeing that riders should have full time jobs and race Speedway like in the 'good old days'. Great idea but in todays job market just how many jobs can fit in with riders travelling on various days and taking spells out injured? In the past Speedway was a big enough sport that many employers would take on riders and make allowances for their sport because it gave them some involvement, these days most employers don't know what Speedway is. I know my lad went through a variety of jobs trying to find one that fitted and I had to completely change my career to cart him around for NL Speedway. We didn't pay anybody to work on his bikes as I did the motors but the travelling and time off work hit hard, took me as long to recover financially after he gave up as he was riding for.

Well done for supporting your son. Not all sporting parents are as supportive, so you deserve credit for letting him have a shot at it.

But my answer would be for riders to get a trade then that fits with your sporting ambitions. Paint, decorate, plaster, labour...if you truly want to make it, you will do it. The same goes for any sport. Speedway does not owe anyone a living.

Edited by falcace
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The fun has gone out of speedway. Why bother to leave the house to attend the track to cheer on boys who have as much commitment to your team as the next land developer who has designs on the venue? Not to mention spending nearly £20 admission in the hope you won't be kept waiting in the cold for two hours or more for 15 minutes of action.

Youngsters have a variety of other things to do nowadays so you can't really expect to lure kids and expect them to wait 10 minutes until the next race. If we don't lower our aims and commit to having a league set up which favours the old art of team speedway rather than tinkering with rules to allow riders a decent living in whatever division that can accommodate them, we are done.

Speedway is primarily a team sport, where riders turn out in the colours for those on the terraces. That has been completely lost in modern-day speedway. It is important now just to fix the riders up with enough dates in their diary to make a living. The riders are being put ahead of the fans. 

One night during the 90s I realised that riders I had grew up supporting actually began to feel they were doing the fans some kind of favour. It was the night one particular meeting was held up for around 45 minutes because some competitors had been delayed in Sweden from the night before. Any other entertainment business would have made sure it didn't happen again. But it has, again and again. When you feel that the team you used to glow red-faced just cheering on hasn't anybody in it who would commit the same because it's just a job, and they have a short career, I suppose you can point to the start of speedway's latest death threat.

Speedway should make up its mind. Either return it to a team sport - banish the double up and down farce - and give a reason for fans to return, a love for a team of seven of their own riders. Otherwise, what does it exist for?

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7 minutes ago, moxey63 said:

The fun has gone out of speedway. Why bother to leave the house to attend the track to cheer on boys who have as much commitment to your team as the next land developer who has designs on the venue? Not to mention spending nearly £20 admission in the hope you won't be kept waiting in the cold for two hours or more for 15 minutes of action.

Youngsters have a variety of other things to do nowadays so you can't really expect to lure kids and expect them to wait 10 minutes until the next race. If we don't lower our aims and commit to having a league set up which favours the old art of team speedway rather than tinkering with rules to allow riders a decent living in whatever division that can accommodate them, we are done.

Speedway is primarily a team sport, where riders turn out in the colours for those on the terraces. That has been completely lost in modern-day speedway. It is important now just to fix the riders up with enough dates in their diary to make a living. The riders are being put ahead of the fans. 

One night during the 90s I realised that riders I had grew up supporting actually began to feel they were doing the fans some kind of favour. It was the night one particular meeting was held up for around 45 minutes because some competitors had been delayed in Sweden from the night before. Any other entertainment business would have made sure it didn't happen again. But it has, again and again. When you feel that the team you used to glow red-faced just cheering on hasn't anybody in it who would commit the same because it's just a job, and they have a short career, I suppose you can point to the start of speedway's latest death threat.

Speedway should make up its mind. Either return it to a team sport - banish the double up and down farce - and give a reason for fans to return, a love for a team of seven of their own riders. Otherwise, what does it exist for?

I think the low points limits also have a lot to do with rider loyalty (or lack of).

The very nature of it dictates riders moving clubs year after year. It also means riders can do themselves a favour by dropping the odd point her and there. Plus you get clubs making changes to strengthen as the averages allow.

I appreciate that some clubs also need a low limit in order to be competitive, so it is something of a Catch 22 situation, but I don't think it does the sport many favours.

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2 hours ago, adonis said:

If you were to standadrise engines , the fans on the terraces would definitely notice a difference , just take a look at Moto2 ,standardised engines,  and racing  that far outstrips Moto GP or F1

And with standardised engines you could run a one make series..

Giving economy to scale purchasing power..

And tender out the upkeep and maintenance contract too. One fee paid out to one business to maintain the engines..

And if they don't cut the mustard they are replaced..

Or if they do a good job and someone equally as good can do it for less, the costs are cut even more..

It would be interesting to know how much British League racing money subsidises the individual aspirations of some of the competitors..

Or even subsidises their racing overseas...

Maybe a one make series, with riders salaried, and bikes owned and maintained by teams (or centrally by the collective BSPA) is the way forward?

Cutting standards is mentioned as being a reason for decline..

99.9% of the population don't attend Speedway, with a large amount of that huge number having a Speedway track within an hours drive..

These people simply have no idea what 'the current standard' is, nor could probably name the current British World Champion therefore they wouldn't 'miss' the standard as it currently is..

These are the people that need to be attracted to the Sport and the size of their number offers a huge prize, and if only a couple of percent can be enticed to start watching the Sport it would increase crowds several fold....

The 'model' used for the past 20 years or so simply doesn't work..

So stop using it..

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Over the last decade the quality (at least perceived quality in the eyes of many fans) has been gradually reduced in an attempt to reduce costs. The knock-on effect of this has been a marked reduction in paying customers.

Can anyone explain to be how making a significant reduction in quality by making the sport amateur would result in anything but a significant reduction in paying customers?

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3 hours ago, tmc said:

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.

PAIR of football boots costs a lot less than all the equipment a speedway rider needs.Plus they only play one day a week so having another job is relatively easy. A speedway rider needs to have a job which allows him considerable number of days off to accommodate various fixtures. No comparison.

Edited by PHILIPRISING

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7 minutes ago, MattK said:

Over the last decade the quality (at least perceived quality in the eyes of many fans) has been gradually reduced in an attempt to reduce costs. The knock-on effect of this has been a marked reduction in paying customers.

Can anyone explain to be how making a significant reduction in quality by making the sport amateur would result in anything but a significant reduction in paying customers?

The issue has been the reduction in quality has not coincided with a reduction in admission costs!

Nor I would suggest an overall reduction in salaries, as lowering averages just creates those 'key riders' who can increase their average more in a watered down league, and ask for big money to do it..

As has been said, top riders like Crump, Pedersen, Adams etc all were at the top of their game whilst crowds dwindled around them..

The Sport needs to 'start again', decide what it wants to be and implement it..

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 I just don't understand why today's meetings take so long. My Dad used to take me to Hackney every Friday, on the proviso that we didn't stay for the 2nd half. The meeting would start at 8pm sharp, 13 heats, and my Dad would be back in his local by 9.30. Nowadays you would be lucky to get to the last bell! 

 

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16 minutes ago, MattK said:

Over the last decade the quality (at least perceived quality in the eyes of many fans) has been gradually reduced in an attempt to reduce costs. The knock-on effect of this has been a marked reduction in paying customers.

Can anyone explain to be how making a significant reduction in quality by making the sport amateur would result in anything but a significant reduction in paying customers?

This  percieved reduction in quality  amounts to about half a dozen foreign riders ,who have chosen not to ride here anymore , there has been no orchestrated dumbing down as far as i can see , just  spreading out the the top riders to try and keep a level playing field . 

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13 minutes ago, mikebv said:

The issue has been the reduction in quality has not coincided with a reduction in admission costs!

Nor I would suggest an overall reduction in salaries, as lowering averages just creates those 'key riders' who can increase their average more in a watered down league, and ask for big money to do it..

As has been said, top riders like Crump, Pedersen, Adams etc all were at the top of their game whilst crowds dwindled around them..

The Sport needs to 'start again', decide what it wants to be and implement it..

I agree about the admission costs. However, clubs seem to use increasing admission costs as a substitute for lost revenues caused by declining numbers. Therefore, if an amateur league, albeit with lower costs, resulted in a fall in attendances, history does not bode well for admission costs to be set at level which will attract fans.

 

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11 minutes ago, adonis said:

This  percieved reduction in quality  amounts to about half a dozen foreign riders ,who have chosen not to ride here anymore , there has been no orchestrated dumbing down as far as i can see , just  spreading out the the top riders to try and keep a level playing field . 

I agree, hence why I have "perceived", as I don't think the actual quality is significantly lower than say a decade ago. However, the points limit in the Elite League at least as been reduced pretty much every year, which results is a slow decline in the overall standard of riders.

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57 minutes ago, PHILIPRISING said:

PAIR of football boots costs a lot less than all the equipment a speedway rider needs.Plus they only play one day a week so having another job is relatively easy. A speedway rider needs to have a job which allows him considerable number of days off to accommodate various fixtures. No comparison.

So what would be your answer to the current crisis Philip? 

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1 hour ago, PHILIPRISING said:

PAIR of football boots costs a lot less than all the equipment a speedway rider needs.Plus they only play one day a week so having another job is relatively easy. A speedway rider needs to have a job which allows him considerable number of days off to accommodate various fixtures. No comparison.

But the crowd numbers and income generated IS comparable Philip..

My local team Stockport County ply their trade in 'Division Six' and get crowds regularly of 3300 plus..

Their highest earning player is on less than £500 per match...

BV have attendances approx one third of that and I would wager all seven riders get paid more than £500, with possibly several up to four or five times as much..

Speedway can't afford its business plan and the operating model it is based on...

So needs to change and start doing so...

Edited by mikebv
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