Dick Barrie's picture

Fans are great!

Fans stand on our third bend terrace, cheering, creating noise and atmosphere. Fans congregate at our away matches, waving big flags and showing the riders that they’re not alone in a strange place.

Fans are the salt of the earth.

Fans should not be confused with supporters.

Supporters are fans who seek greater involvement in their team. They form clubs, which at their best can be a vital lifeline to a speedway promotion striving to make ends meet. In that respect, a Supporters Club which can be trusted to use their connection to the speedway to raise funds which can be handed on to their promotion to help maintain the operation of their sport at a track is a very, very good thing.

At our Fans Forum last month, Jamie Courtney was crystal clear in explaining the cold, hard facts of life.

He emphasised that – even with a marginal increase in admission prices – for our Bandits to continue, extra income has to be generated. He was pleased to report the formation of a new, Official Supporters Club, dedicated to three simple targets in life. These are:

1) Raising funds solely to help secure the future of speedway racing in Berwick-on-Tweed.

2) Spreading the word about the Bandits throughout north Northumberland and the Borders.

3) Having fun and cheering on the Bandits.

Now you may think, why is this needed? Isn’t there already a supporters club at Berwick?

Yes, but although that club was set up a decade or so ago with similar aims, in recent seasons there has been a sea-change in the ethic of their objectives.

The original motives of that club have been abandoned, with an incoming cabal seeking to divert funds – money raised by direct association with the name of Berwick Bandits -- from supporting our financially-precarious speedway promotions (past and present) to a greater involvement in staging events from which the profits also go to running coaches to places such as Cardiff, handing cash donations to our (already well-paid) riders, putting their name to a race or two and yes, at times making the odd donation to the club.

However, twice in the past three or four years and despite the whole future of Berwick speedway at these times being on a knife-edge, appeals by promoters to -- and discussions with -- the supporters club committee with regard to financial assistance were rejected. A state of affairs about which I feel very sad.

This very week we’ve had the terrible news from Workington, with owner Laura Morgan – learning that outside funding earlier promised to the Comets is not now available – withdrawing her club from our Championship.

Which must send an icy shiver down the spine of anyone with the ongoing future of speedway here, in our similar northern outpost, at heart. My fellow-blogger Sarah Charalambous said that, were the Bandits to fold, “the town of Berwick-on-Tweed would be devastated”.

I have no quarrel with the rank and file members of the old supporters club, but there's a faction there who may fail to realise just how close the club has been to going out of business twice in the past three years, and who continue to raise funds for their own purposes while using the Bandits' name.

Meaning that the establishment of an Official Supporters Club is not just overdue, but imperative.

When funds are raised in the name of supporting Berwick Bandits these funds must be passed directly to the promotion to help the cause in whichever way they are best needed.

Not spent on jollies to the Grand Prix or cash awards to individual riders.

In my humble opinion.

I'll go with the new, official, supporters club, as I feel their fund-raising will be singularly devoted to keeping our club afloat for years to come, all being well.

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