Eastbourne’s search for a new rider shows just how exasperating it can be to be a promoter these days in British speedway.
It is now some weeks ago that Lifestyle Eagles senior promoter Bob Dugard embarked on the search for a new face or faces.
Bob is probably the most experienced promoter in speedway in this country, has a tremendous knowledge of the continental scene, has many contacts in Poland and Scandinavia and has the “clout” to do deals – and yet he still struggles to find a rider who will come to Sussex.
It is a reflection of where this country has dropped in the pecking order of world speedway.
Once at the top of the tree – the place where everyone wanted to ride – we are now fourth (at best) behind Poland, Sweden and Denmark.
British speedway is no longer the attraction it once was to continental riders.
The real money is made in Poland and it now is the case of “he who pays the piper, calls the tune”.
Polish clubs are reluctant to allow any Pole to come to the UK and will want them back in their own country at the drop of a hat.
Polish league speedway is traditionally on a Sunday but it is moving out now to other days of the week.
In addition, more and more Polish clubs want their riders at “home” for full-scale practice sessions.
Therefore, Eastbourne – riding home matches on a Saturday night – is seen as a particularly unattractive proposition for Polish riders and many other continentals who have a place in a Polish side.
It is mighty difficult to get a place in Polish speedway and they don’t want to be sacked for non-arrival for fixtures because of delays in Sunday morning flights.
And, they want their best kit in Poland too.
Of course, some riders do fly to Poland on the day of the match. UK riders often have no choice but to do that.
They may feel, however, that it is not ideal.
It’s a tough old world out there at the moment for British speedway.
We now play second fiddle to much of Europe and we fans have to accept that.
We can get mighty frustrated because Eastbourne have not signed a rider to replace Adam Shields but the fact is that the UK is low priority for the vast majority of continental riders.
Add to that the fact of being a Saturday track and we have the current impasse.
Last Saturday at Arlington the Eagles were involved in a thriller with Swindon.
The home team scraped home 48-42 and took two league points for a win.
However, the bonus point went to Swindon because they lost by fewer than seven point.
Swindon’s Troy Batchelor has in the past been involved in plenty of controversy with Eastbourne but it is worth praising him on this occasion for a great piece of team riding.
He managed in heat six to bring home to victory reserve Ashley Birks and fend off Eagles’ No 1 Bjarne Pedersen.
There was no passing, because of Batchelor’s skill, but this was classic speedway; reminiscent of the way Martin Dugard used to be able to team ride people home at Arlington.
Batchelor proved it can still be done and purists on the terraces were delighted to see it; even though Eastbourne conceded a 5-1. Stats on page 85.