Speedway's Greatest Year
Author David Hepworth's 1971 - Never a Dull Moment makes the claim that 1971 was the greatest in popular music history. Does speedway have an equivalent golden year? Tracy Holmes and John Stock gave it some thought and we'd welcome further opinions on the matter.
The best year for Speedway? 1972!
Mauger was like Elvis and Olsen as World Champion was pulling crowds and putting gold in everyone's pocket.
Two leagues running successfully in the UK. Riders from all over the world having a go.
The World Final at Wembley. Olsen's fall, Briggo's crash and Mauger did what he did best.
It could not have gone any better. Well it could have, but never mind.
I have never considered the question of what was speedway's greatest year?
For instance many would argue that it would be upon its introduction into the UK. It is chronicled that within a year of the famous Epping Forest meeting being staged the sport had burgeoned all over the country and within six weeks of competing top riders could earn enough money to buy a house. The paradox is that this was against the backdrop of the dreadful pre-war depression.
Another claim could be the year (this will need very careful research) when it was possible, if you were a Londoner, to watch top tier speedway six nights a week.
Some may argue that it would be 1973 as it was in this year that the biggest ever speedway attendance was recorded when Szczakiel won the World Final staged in Chorzow, Poland. It has of course been pointed out since that in those times of strict communist control speedway tickets, for major events, were distributed as part of work gratuities in Poland. But a fact is a fact.
And as a last example I know of many, who had no experience of the sport before the 1970's, who regard the previously referred to Penhall era as the greatest. So to pin it down, in that era, it would have to be 1981. Besides the fact that it was the last ever Wembley World Final the British system dictated that all top tier clubs (I believe the two leagues ran then as The British League & The National League) received a divvy from the event.
I think that this last example touches upon the problem of providing a defining answer to the question because how many amongst us, watching speedway today can compare it with speedway that they watched in the 1930's and throughout the intervening time?
I also feel that there may exist a comparable element to that commonly found amongst older generations when they claim that things are far worse now than when they were young i.e. many supporters will associate attending the sport during some of the happiest years of their lives and therefore maintain a very biased view of that window of time.
I feel that the most accurate answer would have to be an academic/mathematical one.
In other words the greatest year would have to be the year that throughout the season the largest total of combined attendances, for all of the British clubs, was made.
I wonder what year that would be?
This article was first published on 8th May 2016
"Yup, 1973 would be my next choice. That Daily Mirror World League Tournament with the Final at Wembley. Mauger back as World Champion only to prove he was human afte rall at the World Final. Being beaten twice by Jerzy Szczakiel contributing to the biggest shock in World Final history. Press coverage the like of which had never been seen before or since? Please correct me if I have this all wrong. Was the sport at saturation point? After 1972, I cant recall a more popular year, world wide."
"I have to say 1981 was a great year for Middlesbrough speedway and a great world final. I traveled to London to see the last World Championship at Wembley won in amazing style by Bruce Penhall, not realizing it was the end of an era in more ways than one, after supporting the team since 1961 when Reg Fearman returned speedway to Cleveland Park. Boro had won the BL Div 2 Championship in great style too, Led by one of the best club men ever, Steve Wilcock and supported terrifically well by the rest of the team. I myself was on the verge of trying to get back into work after the devastation of the Government and their actions to destroy the industry of Britain. The beginning of 1982 I and my family departed the UK headed for a new life in Australia. It was the end of regular speedway meetings of my home town team and the World Championship as we had known it up until then, yes it was a great year 1981."
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