EDITOR’S NOTE: Cycle Speedway – we need to talk

Cycle Speedway

We reopen 33/18 News today after taking a few days to collect our thoughts, do a little bit of soul searching and decide the best route to take, moving forward.

It’s rare these days that we delve into political matters on 33/18 News, as largely we feel it can be counter productive. However, sometimes you have to stick up for not only what you believe in (the safeguarding of our sport), but when the daggers are drawn, yourself too.

Many of the more sagacious members of our sport would have watched on with dismay at the hysterics of Tuesday evening, which saw the reporting of Birmingham’s application to the 2016 Elite League rescinded by the CS Commission.

The frenzied fall out was an entirely predictable outcome but also a reminder of where the sport of Cycle Speedway is currently at. Simply that social media has become one of the biggest threats to the sport in recent years.

Everyone is entitled to their say, something we at 33/18 News actively encourage by sharing all of our posts on Facebook and Twitter, but as soon as threats, bullying, libellous comments and lies are left unchallenged, it only goes to undermine the sport and it’s volunteers completely.

Facts are important, as is the transparency of the sport’s governance and with that, it’s paramount for everybody to know the facts about Birmingham’s Elite League application and the requirements for the Elite League and why the decision was reached.

Firstly, the commission decided to relax the Go-Ride Clubmark status rule for 2016, which serves to acknowledge clubs who are run with all the correct procedures in 2016. This includes proper coaching, insurance, safeguarding of children, trained welfare officer and a club constitution. This prerequisite ruling is in place to elevate the status of the Elite League, as the sport’s finest example of excellence, a must have if we are serious about progression.

By the November deadline, only four Go-Ride accredited clubs applied for the 2016 series and a fifth, the unaccredited Coventry, also submitted their application. Birmingham’s application missed the deadline by a few days. However, the commission not only decided to extend the deadline to allow the “en route” Birmingham paperwork to arrive at BCHQ, it also agreed to the aforementioned relaxed conditions for both Coventry and Birmingham to be able enter the Elite League, unaccredited, provided they made sufficient progress towards their Go-Ride Clubmark status, with a view to completing the accreditation by the end of the season.

This decision not only allowed the Elite League to function in 2016 with more than six matches apiece, it gave the commission the time to address the real key issue of the poor shape that CS is in, with so few teams competing at the highest level.

Both non-accredited clubs were informed, in no uncertain terms, if there was no evidence to suggest they were not actively or able to achieve the Go-Ride Clubmark accreditation by March 1st 2016, their application would be rescinded. Both Coventry and Birmingham agreed to these conditions. Their participation in the Elite League and future of any riders signing for them was placed firmly in their hands, the ball was in their court.

From the November commission meeting to the March deadline, the British Cycling West Midlands Regional Development Manager concluded that “no progress had been made towards achieving Go-Ride status” by Birmingham and there was at the present time no coach registered onto the coaching scheme. In the three and a bit months, it must also be said that members of the club were reminded of their need to to begin proceedings, both officially by British Cycling and receiving off the record support by friends of the club.

The week of the deadline, British Cycling requested a status check on the requirements for all clubs, there was no response to this request from Birmingham. At this point, it was also apparent that Birmingham were not yet affiliated to British Cycling for 2016 and had outstanding levies due for the 2015 season.

The deadline came and went. Despite no evidence presented to the commission, Birmingham were then given a further two weeks past the deadline by the commission to save their Elite League application and the riders who they had promised racing to. Only then was any form of action taken by Birmingham.

In this two weeks, no individual at the club was identified to be taking on the significant Go-Ride workload. No coach was booked onto a coaching course, a fundamental requirement of the Go-Ride scheme, no welfare officer was appointed or booked onto a training course and no additional evidence to suggest the club were serious about moving forward with their accreditation could be presented. The only offer of progress was an 11th hour telephone call that Birmingham would be signing a BC Club Coach, who has been a non-BC member since July 2012, as their sufficient evidence of Go-Ride progress.

Taking all of the above into account, after the unprecedented extending of lifelines given to the club and the opportunity to help themselves, the commission could only reach one decision, which was to rescind Birmingham’s application. Where else could you draw the line after extending two deadlines with no positive outcome? However unpalatable the truth to the saga may be, somewhere responsibility must be taken for both the rescinding of the application and for the riders who are now missing out.

With this, certain individuals have taken to social media to point the finger at everybody but themselves and lowering the sport to what can only be described as a witch hunt of the commission members and British Cycling.

The sport needs to make it’s mind up what it would like. On one hand you have British Cycling, a bias-less independent governing body with access to support, funding, coaching and all the assistance a club needs to thrive in this day and age, not to mention the powerful media team at their disposal, or an alternative, which based on the evidence of the last few days, would turn CS into a wild-west-free-for-all, where mob culture rules with egos left unfettered and free, with absolutely no opportunity for growth due to constant squabbling between ourselves. As such, over time, we would become as much as an old Wikipedia page and a few YouTube videos from a time gone by. We desperately need strong leadership.

For too long Cycle Speedway has played the victim. If the wider CS community were more proactive, open minded, forward thinking and had a desire to be professional, instead of airing dirty laundry on a public forum, taking shots at each other, pointing (in some cases middle) fingers, moaning about what other clubs or anyone else are doing and often committing libel, the sport could actually move forward.

Instead we’re left with a situation where any person or club trying to make a difference, a voluntary unpaid difference at that, are vilified and shot down, draining enthusiasm in a spectacular display of negative expenditure of energy and mob culture.

Instead of pointing the finger and placing blame at the door of others, Cycle Speedway needs to start looking at itself and thinking, “what can we do to better this situation?”. From the experience of reaching out over the past 12 months instead of working against, the rhetoric of “British Cycling doesn’t want Cycle Speedway” could not be more wrong. If you ask for the help, they are willing to give it, give them something to report and they will report it. Instead, we expect BC to do all the work and want it all on a plate, at no cost, when Cycle Speedway is easily the cheapest discipline under the BC umbrella and is largely inexpensive compared to other sports countrywide.

We can carry on the way we are, negatively moaning all day from behind our keyboards, “liking” misguided and inaccurate statements on Facebook to stoke the fire, or we can make a positive difference, we can work together and for ourselves. Building a sport that we can be proud of. It’s not British Cycling or the governance that needs to change it’s ways, it’s us.

Penultimately, this article is not designed to have a go at Birmingham, it is simply about getting all the facts clear about why the decision was made, in response to the significant number of inflammatory comments thrown about earlier this week. Since then, Birmingham have made a positive step forward by offering to fulfil their fixtures as “challenge” or “exhibition” matches. Something all Elite League clubs, and more than likely British Cycling will no doubt be happy to facilitate. This is a fine example of “what can we do to better this situation” in full flow and should be commended.

To conclude, the first step towards fixing Cycle Speedway is an acknowledgement that we need to change, the question, is the sport willing to accept it?