Ongoing Scandal of GP Series Prize Money

What would it be like to live in world without inflation? Strangely enough, the riders who have competed in the Grand Prix series know this feeling well. They’ll know this again this year as the 2008 Grand Prix series starts tomorrow in Slovenia with exactly the same prize money on offer as in 2005!

Given how we repeatedly hear from the organisers and their media boosters just how wonderful and successful these events are at attracting increased (television) audiences and sponsors, it’s safe to assume that the rewards given to key BSI staff (now IMG) John Postlethwaite and Paul Bellamy – or to Ole Olsen – haven’t remained static during this period. But, then, they’re successful businessmen and not the raw talent.

What’s even worse for the riders is that the prize money is paid in a currency (the US dollar) that – unlike say the Swiss Franc (which the FIM often award prize money in) – has depreciated in value. Even worse the prize money is the only income the riders receive from the FIM for competing in the Grand Prix series. From that prize money they have to pay for all their own travel, accommodation, staffing costs and equipment. To compete at this level, clearly you require excellent equipment that has been tuned and maintained to the highest standard. Yet more bad news, from an expense point of view, is that the FIM require you to stay at one of their approved hotels so savings through a staying at a cheap B&B (or in your own deluxe motor home) aren’t available to any rider. Obviously, these earnings are all subject to taxation in whatever country the rider is domiciled or resident for tax purposes.

The pay scales for each Grand Prix are as follows:

Placing Prize money per meeting
1 $11,000 10 $3,700
2 $8,200 11 $3,650
3 $6,900 12 $3,600
4 $6,000 13 $3,550
5 $5,250 14 $3,500
6 $5,100 15 $3,450
7 $4,650 16 $3,400
8 $4,500 17 $2,100
9 $3,850 18 $2,100

Effectively, in motor sports terms, the reward for victory (even before costs are subtracted) is the square root of F all.

Based on the pay rates published on the FIM web site in 2007 the riders’ earnings from the GP were as follows:

Andreas Jonsson $143,350
Nicki Pedersen $88,150
Leigh Adams $76,500
Tomasz Gollob $61,050
Jason Crump $60,850
Greg Hancock $59,750
Hans Anderson $53,550
Chris Harris $51,400
Scott Nicholls $51,100
Rune Holta $50,750
Wieslaw Jagus $48,150
Bjarne Pedersen $44,650
Matej Zagar $39,000
Antonio Lindback $32,300
Jaroslaw Hampel $32,000

So, the ongoing scandal-cum-travesty that is the deleterious impact on British speedway of the BSI (latterly IMG) owned Speedway Grand Prix series – in terms of rider availability, attitude and the havoc it plays with the Elite League fixture list – is inflicted for an absolute pittance in prize money! These official/approved FIM pay rates lead the riders to effectively bastardise our enjoyment of top-level speedway in this country.

The conclusion must be that the rewards that drive the riders to sacrifice so much to compete for individual glory in the GP series must come from somewhere other than the prize money on offer. This elsewhere is likely to be the attraction the sponsors immediately feel about the regular television appearances riders emblazoned with their logos guarantee. The financial rewards will for riders will also come from the higher rates of guarantee, points money and signing-on fee they can negotiate/command from their club sides in Poland, Sweden, England and Russia as a consequence of the success or notoriety by competing in the GP! Clearly this isn’t a sustainable situation or one that has been set up for the long-term future or development of British speedway!

With thanks to Charles McKay without whose research, interest and diligence this posting wouldn’t have been possible. To read his article on the subject and many other matters please subscribe to the excellent publication –
the Voice: The Official Journal of the Friends of Speedway
Essential reading for all British Speedway fans
Published quarterly. To subscribe contact editor Stuart Towner on 0208 397 6599 or email stuart.towner@blueyonder.co.uk

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