A future inspired by a nod to the past?

Published on 8th November 2018
Author George Dodds

So Jamie and Scott will attend the forthcoming BSPA AGM not looking forward to their third season in charge but with the Bandits up for sale.
This year in particular they have worked tirelessly to move the sport on at Shielfield.
They assembled a team which, within a sensible budget, missed out on a play-off spot by a point despite being written off as wooden spoon certainties before a wheel was turned.
Along the way they developed a team spirit and sense of togetherness both on-track and with the fans which was second to none.
Careers were extended, careers were rejuvenated, young men took their first steps towards stardom and some not so young proved that on any given night the sap still rose and the racing juices flowed.
Winning at Armadale, winning at Ipswich, Workington aside unbeatable at home – the 2018 Berwick Bandits were the stuff of which legends are made.
They can even belt out a decent rock riff as proved at the memorable end of season bash at Ord.
But it all has to be paid for.
In an ideal world gate receipts cover the costs and even reward the owners with a profit to allow them to either earn a living from running the club full-time or at least compensate them for the time that organising and promoting a club takes them away from their own businesses.
More likely sponsorship and hospitality will be needed to make up the shortfall.
In reality pockets, credit cards and overdraft facilities keep speedway running at venues around the world where the sums rarely add up to the point that the ink is black on the balance sheet.
Really lucky owners will have a supporters’ group focussed on raising funds which are handed over on a regular basis to keep the cash flowing and the future bright. Look no further than our nearest and dearest at Edinburgh and Glasgow for examples.
There is an old adage that the only way to become a millionaire speedway promoter is to start off as a multi-millionaire speedway promoter.
It may not be financial Armageddon but those bankrolling sport at speedway’s level need to be pragmatists and realists rather than get rich quick speculators.
There are only 24 hours in any given day; squeezing the needs of the club, their businesses and young families into those 1440 minutes has proved unsustainable, The Brothers were forced to take stock and, sadly for us and the sport in general, decided that after two intense and breathless years they could not put their lives on hold any longer while the demands of the club were dealt with.
They leave the Bandits in rude health having developed an operational blueprint which lured a number of old sponsors and backers back into the fold, introduced new ones to the delights of Shielfield Saturday Nights and kept long-term backers purring with delight.
There is a useful asset base, branding and merchandise which has seen the club enter the 21st century with a vengeance and a core of volunteers ready to drive the dream for a 52nd season.
And of course there is the Grant Henderson Training Academy at Duns – already worthy of a place in the club’s hall of fame despite having only been around for less than two years.
The brainchild of Scott Courtney, it was hand-crafted from the Borders mud by an inspirational band of fellow dreamers into a facility which is viewed by many as key to the future of the speedway in the north east, Scotland and beyond.
Look back to the last time that speedway was in anything even remotely approaching good health – the late 90s – and you will see an era when the engine room of teams in this neck of the wood were largely staffed by graduates of the Linlithgow Lightning.
In the 80s it was Felton which provided the raw material for northern teams.
In both of those eras the future of the Bandits was looking fragile at times but new blood stepped in and took the club forwards.
I, and hundreds of others, desperately wish we had the funds to do it, hopefully it will not be long before someone who has some spare cash takes up the challenge.
If you know that man or woman (or for that matter men or women) point them in the direction of berwickspeedwaysale@gmail.com – it’s an email that could change lives.

George Dodds
George Dodds

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