Early Christmas Joy from BSI

After mismanagement and cost cutting apparently ensured the cancellation of the Gelsenkirchen Grand Prix in October, “Paul Bellamy, Managing Director of BSI (Speedway)” [as he’s snappily known] read from a prepared statement in the bored manner of a speaking clock to signal the emotional depth of his frustration at the inconvenience caused to the fans. Airily, he instructed us to look forward not back, “what we want to do now is focus on the event next weekend” in hope that we’d all quickly forget his pitiful managerial performance.

If the time for analysis and recrimination weren’t then, when was it that lessons would be learnt? The Speedway Star told us, “BELLAMY and [Rob] ARMSTRONG were positive and adamant to all they talked to that the show must and will go on. The time for a post-mortem is not now but must wait until the 2008 World Championship has been concluded.” Unless I missed the post-mortem announcement, it’s now been nearly two months since and we haven’t heard a dickey bird.

If we assume for once that figures issued by BSI are occasionally trustworthy, then there were over 11,000 “supporters” let down by BSI’s bungling (though in the weeks before the event rumours had ticket sales estimated at 5,000). Apart from a weak apology and the promise of a few free tickets for 2009 SGP events, most “supporters” were left seriously out of pocket. Many spent a minimum of £300+ per person going to Germany for a meeting that never took place. Any organisation that respected its customers, would have found some means to offer appropriate recompense, mitigate the loss or give a credible explanation. Even late news of compensation or the outcome of thorough ‘investigations’ would make a nice and unexpected Christmas present!

However, instead this week we witness the hapless Bellamy pretend to play Santa with the announcement that BSI will move the start time of the 2009 Cardiff GP back two hours. I stand to be corrected but the “customers” haven’t demanded this action and only a minority of those who attend the meeting actually book accommodation. Still Mr. Bellamy acts as if he’s a cross between Santa come early and a guest presenter on Watchdog, when his statement gives us some frankly unbelievable blather about doing so to possibly save “supporters” the unnecessary expense! Or, what the supportive Speedway Star termed, “a move specifically designed to combat the price of hotel accommodation in the welsh city”. What self-serving guff Bellamy spouts, particularly when – as noted above – only months previously his organisation completely failed to consider (let alone deliver) any serious offer of recompense to “supporters” for exorbitant travel, hotel and subsistence expenses going to Gelsenkirchen for the BSI fiasco.

Adding yet further flatulent insult to injury, Bellamy then goes on to self-deludingly fly in the face of more facts with the claim, “and in a way the British GP has been a victim of its own success…as the popularity of the event has grown it has been increasingly difficult to accommodate the fans wishing to stay in Cardiff on the Saturday night.” Even ignoring the strong likelihood that in 2009 attendances at Cardiff will decline, a brief glance at recent Cardiff attendances shows us that the trend is anything but a uniformly upward “success” story (nor has there been any significant theoretical increase in hotel room demand) since 2002:
2001 32,000
2002 42,000 (up 10,000)
2003 40,000 (down 2,000)
2004 35,251 (down 4,749)
2005 40,000 (up 4,749)
2006 40,000 (flat)
2007 41,267 (up 1,267)
2008 42,187 (up 920)

In bald terms, despite relentless boosterism on Sky and in the speedway press, from 2002 BSI have taken six years to show a net increase of 187 fans! Superbly illustrating the parallel universe inhabited by the BSI management team, at the time of the takeover by IMG John Postlethwaite, Chief Executive, BSI, commented: “I’m delighted all the hard work we have put into growing world championship speedway as a team has been noticed by a company of IMG’s stature. Myself and the team are extremely excited about realising some of our future growth plans that would not have been possible if we had continued independently.”

Back on planet earth, if someone tried to excite you with news that your pay would increase by less than half a percent (actually 0.445%) over the six years of an unsustainable economic boom, you’d definitely find that pathetic! If only the cost of admission to the Cardiff GP (or the programme) had only shown the same percentage uplift then I’m “supporters” would attend in greater numbers and be happier about an event staged each year on a shoddy and/or dangerous track surface.

Even worse for the credibility of anyone hailing themselves as a victim of their own ‘success’, demand for Cardiff based hotels clearly hasn’t exactly burgeoned in the manner implicitly suggested by Mr. Bellamy! Indeed, I’m not sure (and I expect BSI aren’t either) what proportion of the crowd actually does stay over in Cardiff? Indeed, given considerations of geography and cost, we can safely say that the majority of the “supporters” don’t stay overnight in Cardiff so, unless BSI isn’t being straightforward, what’s all the fuss about*?

What the ‘thinking’ by the BSI management team, this definitely fails as a publicity stunt to distract from or mitigate the public relations disaster caused by numerous “supporters” wasting their hard earned money travelling to an event that the organisers couldn’t manage to put on. However, it probably reads well in the monthly report Paul writes for John Postlethwaite and Rob Armstrong**.

*It’s old news too! In the Coventry v Poole programme dated 4th July, the anonymous ‘Buzz’ column noted that “rumours were rife” that the 2009 GP would start at 5pm.

Also if we assume that visitors from outside the country are the most likely to need to use hotels when attending a ‘foreign’ GP, then (except for Polish fans) the strength of the euro versus the pound will already have dramatically reduced Cardiff rooming costs! Thereby removing the notional reason for the earlier start time…..

** Interestingly on the IMG World website, their Press Room (where they carry all major announcements)fails to mention the changed start time. The BSI management team will need more dramatically newsworthy and attention seeking initiatives in future if they are to attract the attention of their corporate masters (and speedway fans).

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