George Dodds's picture

It is one thing to be confident in your own ability.
With endeavour comes encouraging words from friends, family, perhaps godparents and the odd fan who thinks that they can spot a burgeoning talent when they see one.
You know you’re pretty good but then something really special happens. Some of the best riders to have ever raced a speedway bike put their heads together and decide that you are the most promising young British speedway rider around at the moment.
Fittingly as we approach the festive season, the wise men of the World Speedway Riders’ Association looked at yonder star and announced that Leon Flint was their Young Rider of the Year.
Not bad for a fellow Tweedmouth lad and the fact that Dan Bewley and Robert Lambert were also up for the title underlines Leon’s achievement while suggesting that the future of British speedway is exciting no matter how much the keyboard naysayers would like you to believe otherwise.
It’s always good seeing one of our own at the top of his game – moreso when it comes in the form of such a level-headed and approachable young man as Flint the Younger.
He is in the vanguard of one of the most exciting group of British teenagers coming up through the ranks on a par with anything that I have seen during my 50 years as a spectator and the opening of our Duns training academy promises more to follow in his tyretracks.
The baton now passes to those running speedway to make sure that the path for talent such as Leon, and his two co-nominees, to continue to develop is as smooth as possible.
Progress should not be dictated by the depth of pockets of the families of young riders or their ability to attract big money sponsors.
British speedway must generate the funds to allow the riders to compete with their Polish, Swedish and Danish counterparts on a level playing field.
It’s all very well forcing tracks to change race nights just so taking money from the domestic league doesn’t inconvenience the GP riders too much and promising them TV coverage at any cost to suit their sponsors but we cannot ignore the cost to our up and coming talent of proper development on the international stage. Having to pay their own way to fly the British flag in competition should be a thing of the past
If BT, Sky, Facebook, Google or whoever, part with cash to televise next year’s league campaign – and if they don’t why the hell should we give it away? – at least 20 per cent must go into a British Rider Development Fund to be administered in a similar way to the BEN Fund.
That cash – and additional sponsorship money to be negotiated centrally by the governing body – would then be available to underpin the staging costs of an extensive British Junior Championship for all ages and categories and to cover the costs of those racing in European and World events.
Fans would also be able to pledge monthly payments into the fund or lump sums if they wished and the fund would be topped up with a 5 per cent levy on admission to all of the BSPA shared events.
We may not have the council owned stadia of Sweden and Poland or the Oligarchs looking to flash their millions in a country starved of top level international sport.
Indeed we often rarely have the ability to go from one day to the next without those running British speedway putting their foot into a pile of something unpleasant.
But for too many years British sport has suffered from inverted Internationalism.
We are happy to welcome the world to make a living from our football, rugby, ice hockey or speedway leagues but strangely hesitant at pushing our own talent into a position where it comes down to ability, skill and bravery and not just money.
Surely the time for change is now with youth speedway finally finding itself on the agenda at a growing number of forward-thinking promoters.
I have a strong suspicion that Leon’s award last week will be the first of many, the sport needs to back his talent and those seeking to follow him.