It’s what Saturdays were made for

Published on 4th March 2017
Author George Dodds

With just a week to go until press and practice night I thought a little general knowledge quiz would be in order.
So what links Berwick Bandits, Elton John, Whigfield, The Bee Gees, REM, John Fogerty, Barry Blue, Lynard Skynard, The Cure and The Bay City Rollers?
Full marks to everyone who answered Saturday – enrolment in the Steve Hayward/Roy Clark Popular Beat Music-loving Speedway Fans’ Academy for those who got it wrong and long-term detention for anyone who has ever performed the dance floor moves to Whigfield’s Saturday Night … no matter how drunk.
This year Glasgow have joined us as purveyors of Saturday Night Speedway Fever par excellence while Workington, Leicester, Rye House and Stoke also fly the flag for Sabbatum speed fans.
It marks something of a back to the future moment for the sport as it makes a stand and prepares to do battle with those who get their fix of the sport via TV or, heaven forbid, prefer the dubious charms of network Saturday night TV to live track action.
A trip back to speedway’s Golden Jubilee season of 1978 shows a fixture list in which Belle Vue, Coventry, Cradley Heath, Halifax, Kings Lynn and Swindon were all top division Saturday night regulars. Wembley and Katowice World Finals also favoured Saturday but the Swedes had to be contrary and stage their big nights on a Friday – normally in a deluge at Ullevi.
Strangely in the second tier only champions Canterbury and Stoke joined us on a Saturday night as Friday (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Workington and Peterborough) and Sunday afternoons (Rye House, Eastbourne, Mildenhall and Boston) got the nod.
As someone who clocks in for work at 6am on a Sunday morning, I am the first to say that the world has changed since those days.
Saturday is no longer the half day followed by a day of rest, or for that matter the main family social evening and with the advent of Grand Prix and the opportunity to watch the world’s best from the comfort of your sofa has made it an increasingly hard sell for promoters.
Against that is the fact that those with families don’t have to worry about getting the kids up for school the morning after a cracking Shielfield showdown – especially important to a club such as ours offering free admission to accompanied under-16s in a bid to attract the whole family.
And with Bedrocks and Charlie’s serving until the early hours of the morning there is always the opportunity to make a night of it for those lucky enough to have the following day off.
Over the years teams such as Bradford, Lakeside and Eastbourne have also dabbled on Saturdays, usually when they have been in the top division as Sundays have, for the modern league era been the day when the top stars have looked to cash in on the lucrative mainland European tracks.
Sky’s desire to fill their Monday evening schedules saw the top league stage the majority of its meetings midweek – the lack of availability of the GP riders also playing an increasing part.
But the reshuffle of teams this season means that half of the Premiership is looking to stage its meetings over the weekend with Somerset and Belle Vue racing on Fridays, alongside the true weekend warriors of Rye and Leicester.
All together now: “Dee Dee na na na; Saturday night, I feel the air is getting hot, Like you baby; I’ll make you mine you know, I’ll take you to the top; I’ll drive you crazy ….
Roll on March 11 and see you in Bedrocks!

George Dodds
George Dodds

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