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Fences - Time for Action
By Steven Quarterman
24/05/2007

RobsonJonsson

Speedway is and always has been a sport fraught with danger, with every single rider knowing in the back of their mind that any race could be their last. Advances in machinery have meant that the riders are reaching greater and greater speeds (where tracks allow) on a constant basis, thus meaning the riders skill must increase also. Many riders over the years have had their careers cut short by crashes, some even been paralysed or worse. Jan o Pedersen, Per Jonsson and Krzysztof Cegielski are just a few of the names that have been lost to speedway fans as racers.

The BSPA have made strides over the past few seasons to improve safety with the introduction of air fences which are sure to have saved many riders from the same fate as the three afore mentioned riders. Air fences are mandatory at all Elite League tracks but currently not in the Premier League. Are the BSPA saying that riders in the Premier League are not as important as those in the Elite League? Or are they saying that riders in the Premier league are not as fast as their Elite league counterparts and therefore at less risk?

That question has surely been answered by the recent crashes at Mildenhall. In consecutive weeks there have been serious crashes at mildenhall which have resulted in the meetings being abandoned when only partially complete. I am not casting aspersions towards the safety of the Mildenhall fence, I only use it as an example of the need for air fences to be made mandatory in all competitions. Elite league teams (except for Coventry) afforded air fences by arranging 'challenge' matches against another Elite league team for their first meetings of the season. The riders competing in these meetings did not get paid for riding, instead the money was used to pay for air fences. Ultimately they were investing in their safety.

I finish this article by wishing Stuart Robson, Garry Stead, Jamie Smith, Mark Loram and all other riders currently injured a speedy recovery. You provide us with entertainment, risking your lives to do so and for that I thank you all.

 

This article was first published on 24th May 2007


 

  • Jay Reed:

    "With regard to Air-fences, I agree they should be mandatory in Premier League but also in Conference League, which seems to be forgotten in some of these debates. I'm sure all riders would trade a few meetings wages for peace of mind in contributing to the cost of installing them, just as they did in the Elite League. Conference League riders may have to forego a few more meetings wages than those in Premier League but surely it is the lesser of two evils? However, not all accidents are preventable of course. We have seen a lot of serious incidents this season but according to reports, it seems an air-fence would not have helped the unfortunate Garry Stead as he was run over by another rider. Stuart Robson though, would probably be hobbling around by now had he had an air cushion to break his fall. I believe every rider should now put pressure on the authorities to make air-fences standard in all leagues as of 2008, if not before. "

  • An Ex-Promoter:

    "It is important to bear in mind the reason air fences were introduced into the UK - Television. It was always hoped that the space could be sold to a blue chip sponsor and it was important that each track had a similar appearance to help sell it. Rider safety was never the primary issue which is why these fences are not homologated, do not have a quality standard rating based on research and development or why there are no studies to establish if indeed they do improve rider safety.

    To act in the same way as a catchment fence they have to be free standing and absorb the impact, rider and machine so that they give substantially. When they are mounted on an existing fence they only absorb the impact and then ricochet the rider and or machine back on to the track, possibly in front of following competitors and because of the lack of a catch facility have launched rider and machine over the top.

    The greatest danger in racing today is being run over by a competitor, bikes are so fast that riders have only split seconds to lay down but as the skills mix is so varied at the moment there are many relatively inexperienced youngsters 'flying' in every league and have not the skill to expertly put a bike down at racing speed. Air fences that catch and retain the competitor will help but slowing the technology down will have a more beneficial effect in the long run."

  • Bill Elliot:

    "One of the best and well put articles I've read. Absolute no brainer, as is suggested. Principle is simple - air fences save lives and reduce risk of serious injury, whether the rider concerned is the world champion or a novice coming out for his first ride - every life has the same value - priceless."

  • Bill Elliot:

    "Unfortunately the recent tragedies involving Gary Stead in the UK and Kenny Olsson in Sweden (a rider I watched with pleasure at Glasgow in 2002) only reinforce the argument that speedway must be made as safe as it possibly can be. In which case it has to be compulsory that air fences are installed at every speedway track - it might make it financially difficult for the odd track, but if it makes the difference between a rider having a life after a crash (or not), how can you possibly equate cost with that kind of alternative? I didn't know that in some instances an air fence had been paid for by a track putting on a beginning of season challenge where the teams race for no payment, but if that's what it takes, or punters make up the cost in some other way, then surely it beats the price paid by Gary or Kenny in recent weeks, or so many other riders over the years?"

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