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Conference Constraints - A Different View
by Richard Hollingsworth....12/02/2005

In Dave Green's article about the Conference League grading system he highlighted and praised so much of what is right about this system yet chose to emphasise the negatives with his headline. I'm sure it makes better headlines and there's so many supporters for BSPA/promoter bashing I suspect he is on to a winner.

Whilst I don't think the league has got it quite right I would like to provide a counter-argument to some of Dave's points.

Firstly, Dave makes the strong statement that "It's arguable whether restrictions on team building at this level are required at all". Okay, well I think it is. I argue that we need competitive meetings so that clubs can get sufficient spectators through the turnstiles. In particular I'm concerned about the lower-budget teams (may I be bold enough to suggest these might be Carmarthen, Newport, Sittingbourne, Buxton, Boston and Armadale, along With teams like Newcastle, Kings Lynn and Coventry who have gave up on the 'old' league) but I think all teams will benefit from competitive meetings. Obviously the cost of running a team has decreased with the rulings and I wonder how much bearing that had on Carmarthen (hopefully) and Sittingbourne agreeing to run in the league this season? I'd suggest it didn't do any harm and that the reduced costs, and extra emphasis on younger riders might also encourage more entrants into the Conference League if they can keep the rules relatively consistent over the next few years.

The next point I think has been over-emphasised is the one where he suggests riders like Adam McKinna may become a target in a bidding war. Whilst he, and riders like Simon Lambert and Shane Waldron will be top reserves I suspect their value will not have increased by as much as you suggest. Weren't they valuable assets under the previous rules too? How many heats a meeting are these top reserves going to win apart from heat two? Surely a number 1 who can win 5 or 6 heats a meeting is where any money will be made available. With all team building rules there will always good value signings and the clubs who need to win (and mine at Scunthorpe is one of those) will still try to build stronger teams and stretch the rules to the limit. It is this type of team-building that will drive certain riders values up, not which team-building rules you adopt.

Then Dave focuses on his "main concern", that more teams will ride Meetings a rider short. I understand his logic and actually share his concern. However, now he has highlighted a potential weakness we should not just scrap the whole thing out of hand. We should consider the alternatives for the gap and see which has the best chance of success. I would like to think that with the extra emphasis on youth and the grade two riders, plus the new U-15 league starting up, we will see more grade two riders at the meetings who will qualify to stand-in for a missing rider (almost exclusively an away one). I know not every club will have second-halves and/or U-15 racing afterwards so my suggestion is, with the money that has been saved further up the order, that every club ensures they have an extra grade two rider available on home race nights. I know how enthusiastic young riders are to get a chance with the 'big boys' so I'd like to think that was achievable.


This article was first published on 12th February 2005

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