LETTER: Notes from outgoing chairman, Graham Elliott

Departing Cycle Speedway Commission chairman, Graham Elliott, has written to us to share his thoughts on his two years leading the commission.

Its end of term for me, so it might be an appropriate moment to pen an end of term report sharing some thoughts that I’ve developed last two years as Chairman on the Cycle Speedway commission.

Firstly we are still working through “Youthgate” so I’d like to say my piece about it.

The deal here is at young ages developmental differences are massive even in relatively small timescales. So for example while a 4 year old is only 365 days younger than a 5 year old, the 5 year old has had 25% more time to develop. Therefore it will come as no surprise that in most things a 5 year old will wallop a 4 year old. Conversely when you get to my stately age the difference between 59 and 60 is negligible (just a birthday right?).

Those of us unlucky enough to have been born in unenlightened times and at the latter end of a school year will appreciate this more than most. Basically, you spent most of your early childhood assuming you are a complete sporting duffer, so tending to steer away from sport on the simple premise that no one likes losing all the time.

That simple principle is at the base of the policy toward under 13’s. Just seeking to avoid an over emphasis on outcomes and focusing on enjoyment and individual development pathways until these growth and development issues start to equalise out. Personally I find it extremely hard to fault that philosophy.

Of course, there are issues with it for Cycle Speedway, but they mainly revolve around the minuscule number of clubs and riders and the resultant limited possibilities for competition. This kind of forces the sport toward national competition to provide any sort of meaningful opposition at all.

Here we have identified the real issue before the sport in my opinion. The falling number of clubs and riders. In my view pretty much everything else is a function of that.

Now what to do about it? Well waving the metaphoric wand can sometimes be an enlightening exercise, so heres my wish list:-

1) I’d look very carefully at what’s good and what’s bad in the sport. In my mind that’s pretty simple, its a fantastic and exciting product, but its mired in the past and unwilling to consider change to secure a future.

2) Recognise the flaw in having expensive facilities. I reckon it takes about £60k nowadays to build a reasonably OK circuit from scratch. That’s one hell of an impediment to starting a new club or persuading an existing one to get involved, when you think about it.

3) Consider the fact that the way of doing things currently is not sound. It comes down to bums on bikes, and the standard match day is about too few of those to make the sport self sustaining. Seems to me that we need to be thinking about routinely engaging with the number of riders you might see on a finals weekend to make the thing anywhere near viable.

4) Open the mind to the fact that short circuit oval racing can be a multi faceted thing, and there are other forms that would gel well and open doors. Think Grasstrack, which is already a thing, Morvelo with their Urban racing, tarmac like the Japanese and so on. Its potentially a very broad church with few barriers to entry, if we allow it to be.

5) Open the mind to the fact that bike riders are often multi discipline. BC has about 120,000 members, they all have the potential to be CS riders too!

6) Without disrespecting the roots, wake up to the reality that very little actually comes from the focus on motorcycle speedway.

7) Don’t fear new ideas.

8) Most of all remember that negativity attracts negativity, it’s a downward spiral. The good news is its the same with positivity in the opposite direction. Rid yourselves of negative thoughts and actions and things will get better (that’s why changing the disciplinary culture is so important).

Just my random thoughts for what they are worth.

In closing I’d like to thank everyone for putting up with me. I’ve found that once I’ve had the chance to speak to people out there in speedway land, pretty much everyone has been supportive and wanting the best for the sport. Only problem I’ve found is that there are 1001 ideas as to what that might be, so the tendency is to go off in multiple directions while achieving nothing.

The only way that can improve is by getting behind the Commission and allowing them to lead. There is no problem with expressing opinions, but once they have been considered and a path agreed upon we all need to get behind it. Much of the last two years has  been used up just trying to bring people back together, when it could really have been put to much more constructive use.

Lastly special thanks to Paul West, whose efforts on behalf of us all take diplomacy to stratospheric levels. A great guy, with the best interest of cycle sport firmly in his heart.