Despite the fact that the season here at Berwick ended weeks ago, at the time of writing we are still awaiting fixtures being completed as we head in to the final few days of October.
It happens every single year, we head into October with the most important fixtures still to run such as cup finals, league playoffs and even the meaningless outstanding meetings, and we fight against the worsening weather conditions and desperately attempt to squeeze and cram these fixtures in, often to the detriment of the clubs in question.
This season has been arguably the shortest ever in terms of the number of fixtures, so surely all the fixtures could and should easily have been completed before they were?
The lack of balance and regularity in the fixtures poses an issue in itself and as a consequence it has had a knock on effect at a stage of the season we shouldn’t really have needed to worry about, but alas here we are.
Lets look at the Premiership Playoffs, these fixtures are normally packed full of drama and are generally a great advert for our great sport, unfortunately that wasnt the case this season. To be fair Ipswich disposed of Poole in fairly dramatic fashion but then had to wait an age as Swindon and Wolverhampton were defeated by the elements more than once before they batted each other in far from ideal condtitions.
The final itself was a one sided affair as Swindon ran riot home and away to claim the Premiership title, and Ipswich, despite the defeat can feel proud they got as far.
But were the playoffs a good advert for speedway? Sadly not.
Could they have been? Probably.
Now I’m not saying that we would have seen two classic semi final meetings and a barnburner of a final if these meetings had been run a month earlier, but maybe, just maybe Ipswich would have run Swindon a tad closer over two legs had they not had to wait the best part of a month on Swindon making the final.
Perhaps Wolverhampton would have met Ipswich in the final if their home leg didn’t have to be run in such terrible conditions having already been called off twice beforehand.
I’m not suggesting for a second that Swindon weren’t deserving winners, they most definitely were the best team on show. Even in perfect conditions I think they would have prevailed, but from a neutral standpoint, the Premiership playoffs simply didn’t live up to the hype or produce the drama that we have become accustomed to over the years.
I know we cant help the weather and I’m fully aware that the tracks conditions are the same for all sides. But with that being said, I also know that most fans want to see two teams go bar to bar in the best conditions possible and see speedway be the brilliant spectacle we all know it can be and sadly Britain in October doesn’t always allow that.
I’m fully aware that even if these meetings were run in June, the possibility of a rain off is still very much there. But the later into October we get, we experience colder and damper air and the risk of rain greatly increases so the chances of speedway being on subsequently decreases. This only gets worse as the days tick down and we draw ever closer to November.
Talking of which…
November will see the BSPA AGM where the promoters of each clubs decide on things like points limits, fixtures, formats, league structures and such like and there is plenty to discuss as has been well publicised. Now I’m not going to sit here and slag the BSPA, because I realise that without them, there would be no speedway to speak of, but even they know there is work to be done to safeguard the future of the sport in Britain.
I’m a realist though and for me, this is another winter of discontent for speedway in Britain and our next move is going to be critical if we are to survive as a sport. I know that this sport can be great, we all know this sport can be great but we shouldn’t be aiming to survive, we should be aiming to strive like we once did.
Folks will call me biased, but in my mind the second tier of British Speedway, the Championship, or Premier League as it used to be known is and has long since been a far superior product than it’s so called Elite counter part.
For years it has been the better of the two leagues in the sense that in any given race, any one of the four guys at the tapes can win that race. Not only that, it has provided fans with more variety in their fixtures and a more structured and frankly superior product.
Now I know that some of the “Top Flight” elitists out there will be baying for blood, but lets face facts for a second here, over the last twenty years the top league has gone from restricting teams from having two GP riders PER TEAM to restricting itself to having two full time GP riders between seven teams, and that was only because Neils Kristian Iversen was signed by Ipswich for the last six or so weeks of the season.
As the top riders have unanimously decided to sit out riding in Britain, who has taken up the slack? That’s right, the second tier, which has been constantly watered down and tampered with over the years in order to keep the so called upper echelon propped up, but in essence all it has done is make the two league’s virtually the same with the exception of a few riders, making it Elite in name only.
In spite of that, the second tier has remained the superior product between the two and for me, the place to be. You can call me biased all you want but the point is that I’m right.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Matt Ford, arguably the most successful promoter in British Speedway over the last two decades having led the Poole Pirates to Elite League / Premiership glory eight times in that period, earning them the title of “The Manchester United of Speedway.”
So why does Matt Ford want to see his Pirates side racing in the Championship in 2020?
His reasons vary from the financial viability of the club and a varied fixture list with a more regular pattern of racing which will allow them to revert back to Wednesday night racing.
It might sound like I’m giving Matt Ford a hard time here, but I most certainly am not. In truth he is probably one of the few speedway promoters who has seen his club regualrly turn a profit and of course the impressive resume of trophies speaks for itself. The man knows what he is taking about and there are plenty who could learn a lot from him.
Has it reached the stage where the Premiership can take no more from the Championship?
Is it a case of if you can’t beat them, join them?
Only Matt Ford will know that, but if the most successful top-flight side of the last twenty years, a side that has boasted greats like Tony Rickardsson, Mark Loram, Leigh Adams, Chris Holder and Darcy Ward in that time, sees stepping down a league as an upward step, you have to believe that the upcoming BSPA AGM presents itself with far more questions than answers.
Of course if you wish to agree, or disagree with the Mythman, have an idea for a feature, or you simply want to chew the fat over all things speedway, you can email me email@example.com or get in touch via the JB Speedway Media Facebook page. If your compliments, or indeed gripes can be contained to limited characters, you can send me a tweet @Mythman666.
Until next time…and there will be a next time.
Right I’ll hae’tae gan