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tmc

Time British Speedway went AMATEUR

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1 hour ago, tmc said:
Today's bad news that Workington have withdrawn from the 2019 Championship (second tier), despite winning the treble last season, should provoke the BSPA into a crisis meeting.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: "M
ost 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.

Excellent and well thought out post.

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Fans through the gates aren't enough to pay the riders, who in turn want to take their money out of the sport by spending on tuners etc.

Time to cut costs and at the same time restructuring the whole league set-up. It is speedway's lifeblood.

 

Edited by moxey63
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2 minutes ago, BWitcher said:

Yes, cut the costs.

It's been working brilliantly.

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.

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6 minutes ago, BWitcher said:

Yes, cut the costs.

It's been working brilliantly.

Costs have been cut... just not on the gate, as shown by the slacking off in numbers. The product has been trimmed, but folk are being asked to cough up even more. Hence, just you and that tumbleweed on the terraces.

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Economically  that makes sense but in the real world the plummet to the abyss continues unrelenting

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44 minutes ago, moxey63 said:

Costs have been cut... just not on the gate, as shown by the slacking off in numbers. The product has been trimmed, but folk are being asked to cough up even more. Hence, just you and that tumbleweed on the terraces.

That's the entire point. You cut the quality and leave the price the same (or indeed increase it) the result is less customers. That is the case in ANY business, yet that is all speedway has done for a long time now. It's simply a slow death.

An attitude of focus only on retaining current customers is also a sure fire way to kill the sport. The current supporters are an aging fan base. ALL sports lose fans as they grow older.. however, they work hard to replace them.

I agree with many points in the post, but not focusing on the current fan base.. the current fan base is the biggest killer of the sport.

Edited by BWitcher
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The question is how many more have to go to the wall before Chapman and co realise they have little left to manage. He has patched up one league for his own benefit but seems to forget that if the paying punter does not like it they simply will not turn up.

Nothing has changed and Ipswich nearly closed once before. History has a habit of repeating itself. Could it happen again at Ipswich? 

Possibly because like so many club supporters that have drifted away, all the majority wanted was a weekly fix with riders who would race for their team and not a ‘team select’ but this not going to happen.

Rider costs are out of control and punters have a view re the value they are prepared to pay. The gap is too wide and cannot be made up by sponsors any longer. They could have one professional league and two amateur leagues with part time riders. To expect three leagues to be sustainable on a professional or semi professional basis is living in cloud cuckoo land. 

The BSPA need to get a grip and take a long hard look at what they have done to the sport, bite the bullet and deal with costs and look at whether the sport can survive the next five years and how many teams they are prepared to lose on the way. Alternatively relax the rules and let clubs operate open licences and try a stop the decline in track closures. Once lost rarely do they return within a reasonable time frame.

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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.

Edited by tmc
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The problem with speedway, which it can't afford, is that riders want to treat it as a full-time occupation while its followers struggle to raise the admission price

56 minutes ago, BWitcher said:

That's the entire point. You cut the quality and leave the price the same (or indeed increase it) the result is less customers. That is the case in ANY business, yet that is all speedway has done for a long time now. It's simply a slow death.

An attitude of focus only on retaining current customers is also a sure fire way to kill the sport. The current supporters are an aging fan base. ALL sports lose fans as they grow older.. however, they work hard to replace them.

I agree with many points in the post, but not focusing on the current fan base.. the current fan base is the biggest killer of the sport.

But the current fan base, in the main, has always introduced most of the new fans.

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11 minutes ago, tmc said:

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 the effects in season ticket sales and admission receipts when the new season starts in March.

I suppose eight years of Tory austerity may be partly to blame for speedway's present state. Indeed, I once read an article that speedway always blossoms when Labour is in power, so come on Jeremey Corbyn! 

When I read that one long-standing rider has never had a job outside of Speedway, I realised some participants treat is as though it were football. It is a small time sport that should be organised that way. The average speedway fan has to put aside a large slice of his monthly wage to attend the weekly home match and has to cut their cloth when necessary. I know riders deserve more and risk their lives, but so does the fan dashing up and down the motorway to earn a living.

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back to the day of riders using one bike and the sport being run like grasstrack here i think.

too many think the sport can sustain paying extortionate wages. it's not all about the GP riders, as the leagues become weakened then riders of a certain average become the sought after ones and their demands get higher which defeats the object of weakening

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Speedways demise is all the more galling when we are told by promoters and pundits alike that the product ie the racing is better than ever.

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5 hours ago, tmc said:
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: "M
ost 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.

Excellent article!

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