The consensus from those that have travelled seems to be that Riga is a beautiful city, great place for a night out and well worth considering for a city break. Sadly the inability of the town to stage a successful speedway GP has rather undermined that positive impression. We seldom seem to get through an entire GP season without one meeting suffering from significant issues with the track. While the very recent bad weather has ultimately forced the cancellation, there were rumours circulating well before the weekend that things weren't well. Credit to the SGP organisers for acknowledging the issues and moving the meeting to Daugavpils. Not much consolation for those fans who are unable to make the restaging, but nice to see someone in speedway had a Plan B, doesn't happen nearly often enough.
It's already fading into memory, but what a fantastic ending to the 2014 World Cup. The last bend pass by Niels-Kristian Iversen that snatched the title from the hands of the Poles was stunning and an incredible climax to one of the best World Cups yet. The Danes profited from the use of the controversial joker ruling, but are worthy World Champions, simply for the strength in depth their squad possessed. They are able to call on a pool of riders that Alun Rossiter can only dream of.
While there's no disputing that the Brits did well to qualify for the final, they proved to be well off the pace on the big night. The lack of regular experience of continental tracks has been quoted as one of the main reasons that the Brit's struggled and I wonder if the doubling-up system is actually partly to blame? Riders like Craig Cook and Ben Barker (neither of whom made it into the team) have spent the last few seasons riding almost exclusively in Britain, appearing regularly in both leagues. Had that opportunity not existed, might they have been more likely to seek out rides abroad? You can't blame the guys for making a living and it may well be that they had no firm offers from the continent, but has British speedway become a bit too comfortable for home grown riders?
One Brit who did perform well enough in the World Cup was World Champion Tai Woffinden. Despite his success on the world stage he's struggled to find any kind of form for Wolverhampton this season. Is it out of the question that he could finish the season with a low enough average to enable him to drop down into the Premier League next season? The World Champion riding for Scunthorpe once more? You heard it here first!
Fixture problems seems to be dominating a lot of discussion these days with many clubs struggling to complete fixtures before the play-off cut off dates. Workington in particular will be praying for good weather with 18 meetings scheduled for the next 28 days. Who said that 2014 had been a good summer? Plymouth's junior side are even more up against it in the National League. They've barely staged a home meeting, due mainly to problems with their planning permission. I hope they manage to find a solution but I've a horrible feeling we'll see the team's results expunged before October 31st.
Whatever happened to the 'Grand Parade' that once preceded each night's racing? Over the last ten years it's evolved into a pointless shambles and I no longer feel it adds anything to the evening's entertainment. The rot perhaps set in when wearing a helmet became compulsory during the parade lap, now we see most riders standing behind their bike with their helmet on before they are even introduced. Surely it's not asking too much for the rider to wait until his name is called and he's given the fans a wave before he pulls on the head protection? The introductions themselves have also become a complete waste of time. Even some of the sport's better known presenters now resort to simply reading out a rider's name and number.
"At number 5 it's John Smith, at number 6 it's Bill Bloggs and at number 7 it's John Doe"
The whole away team is often introduced in less than 30 seconds. In years gone by it was the norm for at least some degree of personalisation to be inserted into each rider's introduction. Something like:
"He scored 12 on his last visit, at number 5 it's John Smith. Riding at number 6, the younger brother of Fred Bloggs, please welcome Bill Bloggs. At number 7 tonight is a young man making his first appearance here, put your hands together for John Doe".
Doesn't take a great deal of research to find at least something unique to say about each rider? A quick read of the visitors' page in the programme would probably suffice.
This article was first published on 17th August 2014
"How crucial, and to the point, about riders' introductions at the start of the meeting. And how ridiculous they have to wear a helmet, aka "head protection". Back in the 60's and 70's, what a treat to be at West Ham and to see the riders faces as they did the pre-meeting introductory lap, Ray Wilson, with his long dark hair flapping in the wind as he took the Custom House circuit for one lap, and all the fans could get a glimpse of their favourites. Today is too sterile, not just speedway wise, but in everything that is done. Slowly, but surely, the rot has set in. Speedway, and life, will never be the same."
"At Edinburgh we have the best center green host in Scott Wilson, Glasgow need Michael Max back and Berwick have Dick Barrie. A man that can talk all night and say nothing. I have followed speedway since 1960 presentation went when the GREAT Ian Hoskins sold up, a true showman."
"Can't agree on Scott Wilson, he gives his version of the result. Michael Max, conducted interviews from the pits. He could have been talking to the man on the moon for all we knew. Dick Barrie? the less said the better."
" As a lover of the sport I get quite annoyed when people claiming to be fans make incorrect criticisms based on sweeping generalisations that completely ignore the facts. Speedway has enough genuine problems without people needing to invent more. I am referring of course to "Nick's Notebook" which claims that parades have become a "pointless shambles " because the wearing of a helmet is compulsory and apparently we see most riders standing behind their bikes with their helmet on before they are even introduced. TOTALLY WRONG. At Lakeside for example the riders ride their bikes round to the front of the start /finish line without helmets where they are introduced by the promoter, often with extra information that Nick Lee claims does not exist, the captains toss a coin to determine gate positions, then they ride back to the pits still without helmets. Lakeside is by no means the only track where this happens, sometimes with riders on their bikes , others on a parade vehicle. Of course , some tracks do their presentations far better than others and of course, there are tracks where due to a curfew they want to get on with their meeting, or for whatever other reason don't do a decent parade but to make a sweeping and incorrect generalisation that the wearing of helmets on a parade lap is compulsory, when it obviously isn't and to infer that it reduces the parade to a so-called "pointless shambles" is grossly unfair. The pre-meeting parade always has been part of speedway. Some clubs do it well while others don't, but for goodness sake, where criticism of the sport is necessary let's make it accurate and constructive."
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