Introducing speedway

NOW the season is over and they narrowly missed winning the league championship perhaps it is time to reflect on a great sport. I wonder if even many sports fans are aware of the fact that we do have a world class team in Sussex.

I refer to Eastbourne Eagles, who are of course in the Elite Speedway League in which there are many international grand prix riders. Indeed our own Finnish star Joonas Kylmakorpi is a world champion. Elite league matches are not fought out against local opposition but such illustrious teams as Belle Vue Aces (Manchester), Birmingham Brummies, Coventry Bees and Wolverhampton Wolves.

After the war until the sixties speedway was one of the three most popular entertainments in Britain (the other two being cinema and football.) Speedway combines the grace and balance of ballet dancers with the skill and courage of Arthurian knights at a jousting tournament. In this modern version the horses are gleaming mechanical steeds of 500cc without brakes. It is sad that this sport should be so neglected by the media (with the exception of Sky Sport) and therefore so little known about.

Crowds attending speedway are relatively small. This is a pity as speedway is a throw back to the old values of fair play and sportsmanship. One could contrast this with premier league football where overpaid players often set a bad example to our youngsters and bring the game, which is greater than they, into disrepute.

Everyone of Eastbourne’s team of seven riders is kind and friendly to youngsters and very approachable. Our splendid captain Cameron Woodward is a fine sporting example for any youngster to follow. I have seen Cameron go down, get ridden over, dust himself off and come out for the next race. The riders’ punishing schedule sees them ride in the British, Polish and Swedish leagues in the course of a week.

Rival supporters chat and laugh together, there are as many lady supporters as men and families are much in evidence at matches.

I would like to thank the riders, staff and management for a wonderful year. Why not come along to Arlington next season and watch a sport that makes football seem about as exciting as pink lemonade.

Mike Howell, Ringmer