LOOKING BACK A LUSTRUM

Published on 7th November 2022
Author Dick Barrie

Well, is it finally over?

One of the wettest Octobers in my memory has passed, with speedway people all over the country moaning and groaning about the length of time it took to finalise the play-offs in each of the leagues in which we’re most-interested – the FTS Bandits’ Championship and GHT Bullets’ NDL.

That Leicester suffered a double-whammy of losing track boss Stewart Dickson to ill-health at a time his expertise and experience of the Lions’ racing surface might have allowed them to stage their home legs of both play-offs was most unfortunate.

Thankfully, they were able to hire King’s Lynn last Friday and run both meetings – allowing the season to draw to a belated conclusion – which was fortunate, as it would have been damaging to the sport’s image had neither competition been finalised.

At Berwick, racing is but a distant memory – Bandits whumped Scunny on the last Saturday in August, Bullets reached the play-offs and kept their Shielfield season going until September 8th!

All of which shows how it is quite possible to run two teams in different leagues, miss a couple of midsummer Saturdays because of the Cardiff weekend and a big GP Challenge event at Glasgow, yet have everything done and dusted in good time………

The usual suspects have been mumping and grumping about a pressing need for the fixture-list to be set in stone to allow an earlier finish – well, we did it, and so did just about everyone else. The regular league fixtures were OK, it was just the play-offs and cup finals that ran aground.

The delays were created by some ridiculous posturing and manoeuvring by clubs demanding to be allowed to stage the second leg of a final – hell mend ‘em, you reap what you sow — and compounded by some abysmally wet October weather.

Hopefully, the clubs will agree to being more efficient in fixturing play-offs next time. Plus, there are over a hundred important world leaders, plus Rishi Sunak, over in Egypt just now, sorting out the weather for future Octobers.

But to suggest the BSPL (who are in effect, all the promoters) might vote to cancel play-offs next year would be to believe turkeys would vote for Christmas.

Make no mistake, a properly-advertised, presented on a regular race-night as a climax to the end of a successful season, play-off final is akin to printing money. The attendances at Belle Vue, Sheffield and Poole showed that, for sure. Ka-ching!

We seem to be set for a season of sixteen home league fixtures in the Championship next year. This year we had thirteen official home matches, plus five stand-alone NDL meetings. Plus ten Saturdays (between March 15 and October 31) when we didn’t run. So slotting sixteen CL matches, and a few NDL jobs, should be easy-peasy……………

Looking back a lustrum — a lustrum is five years, half a decade – I note there were ten teams in the Championship in 2017, just as we finished with this past term. We had eighteen home matches, plus the KO Cups and the like, and got through everything without trouble.

From the ten teams who finished in 2017, our league has lost Ipswich, Newcastle, Peterborough, Sheffield and Workington. However, for the year just gone we had gained Oxford, Birmingham, Plymouth, Leicester and Poole. The Lords of the BSPL giveth, and taketh away…….

It’s much the same with riders! At the end-of-term festivities that year at Marshall Meadows, the riders being celebrated (if not all actually present) included our CLRC champion Nick Morris, the great Kev Doolan, NBJ, David Howe, Dany Gapp and young Jye Etheridge, who was voted Rider of the Year. The Border Raiders, who had won the NJL, were represented by a baby-faced fourteen-year-old called Leon Flint.

This year, indeed this Friday, we’re at the Radio Rooms for the 2022 Awards Night/End-of-Season Knees-up. Admission by donation to Ryan Renton’s funding – and isn’t that a heart-warming gesture by the promotion? This is truly a speedway club which looks after its ‘family’……..

Our fan-family has also, for the past decade and more, been regularly among the most-generous contributors to the annual SRBF collections – I think there will be an acknowledgement of the tracks from where the best collections have come in a ‘Speedway Star’ in the near future – and I would hope we’d be given a nod in return for your generosity. Thanks.

See you Friday?
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Want to disagree with Dick (as so many do)? He is always happy to hear from interesting people on dick@crystalfm.co.uk

Dick Barrie
Dick Barrie

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