FEATURE: Club of the week
Dave Murphy puts the 33/18 spotlight on “Club of the Week”
Week 1: Astley & Tyldesley
During the coming weeks 33/18 intends to publish articles on a number of cycle speedway clubs, in Britain, Australia and Poland, as part of this new ‘Club of the Week’ feature.
Our new columnist, Dave Murphy, has chosen Astley & Tyldesley as the first club to put under the spotlight.
- Astley & Tyldesley: Founded in 1989.
- Track Location: Astley & Tyldesley Miners’ Welfare Club, Gin Pit, Tyldesley, Gt. Manchester. M29 7DW.
- Club nights: Every Tuesday evening from 5.30 pm (February to October).
- Accreditations: Sport England Club-Mark (since 2005) and British Cycling Go-Ride club (since 2000).
- Facility: North Regional Cycle Speedway Centre (since 1997) – Grade ‘A’ International.
- Website: http://www.astleycyclespeedway.org.uk/
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The origins of the Astley & Tyldesley cycle speedway club can be traced back to Mike Hack’s participation in the first British Lions tour to Australia in 1981. During his time in South Australia, Mike had witnessed the event model used by Aussie clubs, which encouraged individual racing for all age groups and was vastly different to the 8-rider and 6-rider team format used in the UK.
Mike had been unsuccessful with his attempts to incorporate the Aussie format into the culture of his British clubs during the 1980’s, whilst racing for Bury Manchester and Stoke.
Therefore, when Mike partnered with Steve Mills and Frank Morris, as founder members of the Astley & Tyldesley club in November 1989, they had one vision in mind. They wanted to create a club which would be developed differently from the traditional British 8+6 format and more aligned to the Australian model.
As a new club, they secured a site at the Astley & Tyldesley Miners’ Welfare Club, with the assurance that the site could be fully developed, without the restrictions which many clubs located in parks and council-owned sports centres had previously faced.
The original Gin Pit track was built, on a shoe-string budget, by Mike Hack, Steve Mills and the late Alan Farrell. It opened for racing during April 1991. This “DIY” track served the club well for 25 years, before major funding from British Cycling’s Facilities Fund was eventually acquired and the present track was built to professional construction standards in 2016.
Astley & Tyldesley have a proud record of staging many major events, such as British Championship Finals from 1995 onwards and also hosting the ICSF World Team Cup Final in 2003.
The club has regularly competed in British Championships, at team and individual level, winning the Under-16 British Team Championship in 1997 and being one of the six founder member clubs in the British Youth & Junior League that same year.
Over the years, twenty-three Astley & Tyldesley riders have won British Individual titles or Grand Prix series and all but one of those riders have been completely home grown – Steve Harris being the exception, when he won the British Over-50 title in 2018.
In recent years, the club has dominated racing in the North & Scotland League, winning Division 1 for the past two years, being 1st and 2nd in Division 2 and also winning Division 3 for six successive years. The club’s achievements have been recognised by winning the Wigan Sports Club of the Year award three times.
Several club officials have won prestigious awards locally, regionally and nationally, whilst everyone involved is extremely proud of winning British Cycling’s Go-Ride Club of the Year in 2017.
What the club has to offer:
With the track being located at a multi-sports complex, the club has been successful in attracting plenty of local youngsters and has ensured that club bikes are available for loaning to new riders – the club proudly boasts a current level of 50 club bikes, of varying sizes to suit all ages.
Astley & Tyldesley has always had an open and inclusive club membership policy, to welcome riders of both genders and all ages, abilities, experience and nationalities. The club has steadily increased its number of riders, to a most impressive current membership of 57 registered cycle speedway riders.
One such new addition, in 2018, was Steve Harris. The former World Champion, and more recently a highly decorated veteran rider with multiple World and British titles to his name, has settled well into the Astley & Tyldesley club, since he relocated to the North West.
When discussing his new club, Steve enthused “There are so many positive things happening here and one of the key benefits is that the club is run by a large and proactive committee”. He added “I’ve seen too many clubs struggle in recent years, when the responsibility has fallen on one or two individuals to keep a club running and this lack of support can prevent them implementing the necessary steps for prolonged development”.
Cycle speedway club management has gone through a massive transition in recent years, and it seems clear that those clubs who have embraced youth development, club nights and associated recruitment campaigns have been most successful in maintaining strong and stable clubs.
In fact, as Mike Hack recalls, Astley & Tyldesley initially encountered opposition within the Manchester region, when they withdrew from what was considered as the ‘bread and butter’ midweek league racing in the mid-1990’s, with the aim of focussing on club nights.
But it had become clear to those at Astley & Tyldesley that the heart of their club was its weekly Tuesday club nights, which served to increase rider recruitment and develop youngsters through coaching of riders.
Now, other clubs in the region have adopted this practice, with Manchester League racing being a welcome feature over several weeks of the year, instead of providing a demanding programme with two race nights each week during the summer.
Club nights have become a good social event for all those involved, as volunteers, parents and friends stay to socialise and watch the training, rather than use the club as a creche.
Development Plans and Community Activities:
In order to support the anticipated increase in riders, the club has produced and updated Development Plans over the years. These have identified the need for recruiting officials and volunteers to run the club, which now boasts 30 regular officials and volunteers, including four qualified coaches.
The facilities have been improved year on year, with the venue classified as a Grade ‘A’ International facility.
The Astley club has also developed and maintained strong links with their landlords, the Miners’ Welfare Club, along with Wigan Council, the Rotary Club, local schools and community groups (e.g. Scouts and Guides) whilst regularly holding taster sessions each year, and recruiting riders and volunteers in the process.
In recent years the club has taken full advantage of local social media groups to publicise its activities.
Press releases and general publicity shots are regularly distributed to 12 local groups, as well as to the local media. In addition, fund-raising events are held plus the acquisition of several club sponsors and advertisers.
Looking to the future:
During 2014, Astley & Tyldesley changed the club’s name from ‘Cycle Speedway Club’ to ‘Cycling Club’ in order to incorporate new leisure road and off-road cycling activities. Mike Hack is quick to point out that “This has raised the club’s profile, by increasing its number of activities, members and volunteers”.
With a current membership, of around 100, Mike does not hold back when suggesting that “Our membership is far in excess of those clubs who still believe in the outdated 8+6 model”.
The club has enjoyed much funding from public bodies over the years, to consistently improve its facilities and equipment. Furthermore, with income from catering sales on match days and club nights, along with the subscriptions from such a large membership, the club is in a healthy financial position.
Both on the track and off the track, Astley & Tyldesley are providing a fine example of how to put a successful operating model in place and are well placed for this success story to continue. Financial stability has enabled the club to maintain its facilities and equipment, as well as subsidise riders’ travel to away matches.
In the words of Mike Hack, “It’s been a long journey, but A&T have always been long term in their thinking, planning and development, rather than go for a short-term quick fix”.
Since the advent of the Youth & Junior League and a new coaching culture, the Astley & Tyldesley style club nights have become a feature across the UK, enabling new riders to be recruited and allowed to develop at their own pace without any pressure of inter-club match results. This outcome being a testament to the innovation of Australian cycle speedway and the vision of people such as Mike Hack in the UK.
Club Secretaries: I you wish for your club to be ‘put under the spotlight’ and be included in this ‘Club of the Week’ series, please contact 33/18 (or Dave Murphy).
33/18 Article – contributed by Dave Murphy – April 2019