Who are we to blame for yet another disastrous decision plaguing speedway? I refer to the decision, once again, to bar Emil Sayfutdinov and Artem Laguta from the 2024 Grand Prix series. We all know that Poland is now the new "home" of speedway, have they had a say in it?
Surely it's beyond belief that the organisers who put their own money on the line wouldn't be so silly as to exclude riders of that calibre, Emil in particular who has vastly increased the crowd at Ipswich this season, and Laguta a former world champion. Imagine the likes of Mauger and Rickardsson being banned back in the days?
So, that just leaves the FIM. Maybe back in 2021 a knee-jerk reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine was justified. Indeed a lot of professional sports enacted it - the highest profile being Wimbledon who have now swiftly backtracked and allowed Russian players back, much to the relief of the crowds (and other players). The FIM, that bastion of common sense (whither the starting procedures as one example) have once again allowed politics to creep into sport.
There must surely have been negotiation with the organisers of the GP's - were they too gutless to insist on a fair playing field? The line-up for the GP series in 2024 has, quite frankly, been devalued. That is no disrespect to those who are riding in it, through either being seeded or winning qualifiers, but to leave out two of the world's most exciting riders again for the sake of another pointless political gesture only leaves speedway out on a limb.
There is already a backlash against this on social media and I suspect that crowd levels at next year's GP's could well be down on this season. Except maybe, in Poland.
This article was first published on 16th October 2023
"Just for once I don't agree with Dave Pickles opinion. I don't think the Russians should be allowed to compete on any sporting stage until the Russia Ukraine situation is rectified. To say sport has nothing to do with politics is ridiculous, everything has to do with politics and when there's 'backtracking' it's usually done on a monetary consideration not a moral one.
When top sportspersons are banned it is unfortunate that the supporter loses out and of course it devalues any competition. Dave questioned what if back in the day the likes of Mauger and Rickardsson had been banned, well in 1973 Mauger and Briggs (more or less the top two in the world) were told they had to sign for a British League team otherwise they wouldn't be allowed to compete in the world championship. At that time all commonwealth riders had to go through British qualifying rounds, as it happened Mauger signed for Exeter, Briggo didn't complete in 73 after he lost his finger in the '72 world final at Wembley but signed for Wimbledon in '74.
Some will argue Laguta and Sayfudinov have denounced Russia's attacks on the Ukraine and ride under Polish licences but I don't think that justifies inclusion into the GP's. I think the qualification process for the GP's has devalued the competition. I could never work out how you can have the GP qualifier for the following season half way through the current GP series. The idea of a 'local wildcard' was done on a monetary consideration, not on who deserved to be in the series.
Speedway of course is not the only sport to make weird decisions, in football England's national World Cup side had Swedish Sven-Goran Ericsson take over from Kevin Keegan as their team manager, always thought the team manager was part of the team. Still, GP's loss is British leagues gain.
Talking of devaluing competitions I bet next year British league won't change, still 6 or 7 Premier tems, less champiomship ones and doubling down with tons of guests (some against their own team). Hope they show common sense and just have two leagues. "
"Russians I quite agree with Steve about the situation of the Russians being allowed to race in Britain. Ukrainian sports people are serving in the Ukrainian army, and being killed!. This is good press for the Russians which is Bad. Can you really see the Russian riders being called up for National Service ?. "
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