Dick Barrie's picture


“Because that’s how it’s always been done”

Seven words that have restricted the development of speedway to the point of stagnation.

My bonnet being rarely short of a bee or two, I’ve already complained loud and long in earlier blogs and programme columns about how it is well past time to progress from fly-up tapes to the use of transponders or some similar form of electronic starting system.

However, despite my tub-thumping pleas, the tapes remain.

Because that’s how it has always been done.

At least, how it’s been done for the 85-odd years since midsummer in 1933 when New Cross promoter Fred Mockford introduced Harry Shepherd’s inspirational fly-up gates to the sport.

When I go to Australia, I am sometimes asked to come out of retirement (I know, I know) and work their infield radio-mikes, which I’m happy to do – I find their dollars are just as handy for buying wine as pounds – but I draw the line when they urge me to commentate on the races as they’re going on!

“It isn’t necessary!” I explain. “People aren’t daft, there’s only four riders out there – they can see who’s winning! Why should I scream and shout about a sixty-second race that’s going on, right in front of them?”

The answer? “Because that’s how it’s always been done”. Grrrrrr.

Next up, here’s a quote to ponder:

“For showmanship and spectacular effect, the preliminaries to this meeting have never been bettered”.

“The riders marched out and lined up beside their machines. They were introduced by the announcer, and as his name was mentioned each rider waved to the spectators and wheeled his machine forward to take his place in the grand parade”.

Ooooh, someone talking about a slicker-than-usual show during the past season?

Not quite.

These words were written by a chap named Tom Stenner, describing the preliminaries to the first-ever England v Australia test, staged at Wimbledon in June, 1930. Nearly ninety years ago.

Since then, not a lot has changed, has it?

Although there have been a few well-choreographed theatrical introductions (not universally popular with the forum fannies) at recent Cardiff GPs, what happened at Wimbledon that long-ago June evening in south-west London is more or less what still happens at most tracks, not just in the UK but right around the word.

Because that’s how it’s always been done.

There have been times in the past – at more than a few places I’ve worked – when I’ve tried to persuade various promoters that it might make for a better show to radically update their pre-meeting parade, but my ideas have never really convinced these bosses there was much wrong with what they were doing.

“But why?” I’d plead. “Why can’t we boost the show, pep up the production values a bit?”

You can guess the answer, can’t you?

“Because that’s how it’s always been done”.


Want to disagree with Dick (as so many do?). He will always be happy to hear from interesting people at dick@crystalfm.co.uk