This coming Sunday sees the tenth staging of the BenFund Bonanza, the traditional lid-lifter to our British speedway season.
It will be staged at Leicester, newly-restored to our Championship by having moved across – I refuse to say ‘down’ – after a bumpy five-year ride at Premiership level since being lured there by false promises of great wealth which was to be to be spread around by the evaporating Sky television money.
I’ll be going down for the Bonanza, the SRBF being a cause I believe in deeply. Years ago, while I was working at Belle Vue, I remember having a long chat with a guy called Bernard Crapper, who was promoting Oxford at the time but was also tasked with running the Fund.
Big Bernard told me quite a few home truths about how harrowing a task it could be, pleading for donations to help the families of badly-injured riders – and how such problems didn’t go away. He told me how, even then, they were maintaining a series of payments to the widow of a rider who had died in a track accident thirty years earlier.
Later, when Paul Ackroyd took over responsibility for the SRBF, I again learned from him the urgent need for increased fund-raising. He had the idea a decade ago to stage the first Bonanza, and since then the annual meeting has proved the Fund’s biggest single source of income. But they still need more.
Some big-name riders could help more than they do. That first Bonanza, staged at Sheffield in 2009 ended up with Leigh Adams, Jason Crump and Tai Woffinden on the podium. I find it disappointing that GP stars, even those affiliated to British clubs, seem to find it difficult to turn out these days.
Here at Berwick we have seen several Bandits injured while wearing black-and-gold, sustaining injuries serious enough to prevent their ever racing again.
Since the turn of the millennium we have lost Carlos Villar, Lee Complin, Jason King, Ricky Ashworth and Seb Alden with career-ending injuries in this way, and just about every other club has a similar sad story to tell.
Last year wasn’t a great season for the SRBF. Income from some of the track collections was down a wee bit (ours went well, I was pleased to see) and then they lost all the revenue from not being able to stage the 2018 Bonanza but, as every year before, there was still a need, a duty and a responsibility to look after the unfortunate riders who need a bit of help while unable to race and in many cases do their day-to-day jobs.
The Fund’s annual turnover can vary dramatically depending on circumstances and I feel it is important that we – all -- do everything we can to make it as financially stable as possible in order that they can help not only the present day riders but also those who in future may require the Fund’s assistance.
So I’ll be there on Sunday, and I hope to see some black-and-gold on the terracing at Beaumont Leys, too.
Unable to attend?
Not everybody can – but you can still contribute online, via their website at www.srbf.co.uk
Want to disagree with Dick (as so many do?). He is always happy to hear from interesting people at firstname.lastname@example.org