Gordon ‘Gordie’ Day RIP
You are automatically drawn to some people in life. Others find you. Knowing them makes life better and helps you see it anew or for what it really is. The late Gordon ‘Gordie’ Day was a gentle soul with an intense curiosity about life and people. He charmed and was charming. He found everyone and networked effortlessly without fear or favourites (though he had them). Time in his company felt precious and he taught many so much. Lightly. Without ego and show or, often, even without you knowing. If you looked and listened, you could learn (and he aimed to always learn too). He wore his hard-won knowledge and wisdom lightly and – always – retained his wonder and humility. Gordie liked to share his bounty and play nice. He was gracious but down-to-earth. He knew how to choose his words or moment. How to be a man – a gentle man – but, more importantly, how to savour your blessings wherever you found them.
Having touched so many lives, Gordie will be deeply missed by family and friends as well as a vast roster of passing acquaintances. Everyone will have a story. Many will feel blessed to have known or met Gordie. His passing is a huge loss and definitely not just in speedway circles. Rest in Peace Gordie.
From Showered in Shale
Gordon ‘Gordie’ Day arrives shortly afterwards and is a friendly, bearded, middle-aged man who works full time for the club, in an official capacity as their media and PR man. It’s quickly apparent that he’s infectiously enthusiastic about all things Poole, frighteningly knowledgeable about the club and generally has an easy charm that you’d expect from the PR man’s PR man. I’m already chuffed to be welcomed by Poole Speedway as their guest and to be shown the behind the scenes preparations for a race night, never mind to have the added bonus of Gordie’s company and insights.
In additional to his official tasks and duties, Gordie has taken it upon himself to become the custodian of the club’s history and with it has the task to guard, as best as he can, the flame of the club’s success for future generations. Gordie embarked on the marathon task of “recreating an archive of Poole history” because he found many of the “stars of yesteryear” had, what he politely calls, an “imperfect memory of events”. Particularly when you compared their recollections of events to what the records indicate as the reality of what actually took place. Although it’s a slow process, it’s also a labour of love inspired by his devotion to the club since his father first took him to watch Poole at Easter 1951. Subsequently, during his attempt to restore the materials required for this archive, Gordie has discovered the club’s own record keeping and its storage of memorabilia was far from satisfactory, though this set back hasn’t deterred his efforts or determination to succeed.
Gordie is a willing and very capable evangelist for the club, which he claims comes easily to him since, “I’m a Poole man”. He has an intense pride in the club but then that’s because “speedway is to Poole, what football is to the people of Manchester, Madrid or Milan”. It’s a phrase Gordie uses with ease and confidence, which, I imagine, comes from his confidence in its truth as well as the number of times he’s used it before. There is no doubt that the speedway club in Poole is effectively part of the lifeblood of the place and inspires a widespread and enduring fanaticism throughout the area. Gordie proudly relates that the sport is “very big in the town” and many local people are filled with the “Pirates’ Pride and Passion”. Despite this devotion and fanaticism for Poole Speedway, he always finds it “amazing that Poole people still cheer the opposition” but then “care and consideration” are also part of the core values automatically upheld by the vast majority of the club’s loyal fans. These devotees still regularly come in sufficient numbers to worship at their Dorset speedway shrine, around 7,000 in total every fortnight, and are rightly seen as the numerical equals to the regular attendances of their nearby rivals, albeit one with a different sports code, Bournemouth Football Club.
In fact Gordie stresses that as a club, or as part of people’s lives, Poole Speedway club arguably inspires greater love and devotion than the Cherries at Dean Court. To support his claim, Gordie reels off an impressively long litany of achievement and success for Poole, though it’s a huge list of achievements, that Gordie is able to remember and recall with ease. There have been “doubles and trebles” scattered among a rich history of success that includes eleven league titles and three cup-winning seasons.
Poole Speedway club has always been very special to Gordie and has been part of his own life, ever since he “cried so much at the noise” during his first addictive visit in 1951 to Wimborne Road with his father. After that particular day, there has never been any another activity with such enduring significance for his imagination or for his life; there’s never been any doubt that he’d “always want to come back”. Like many others from the area – and I believe in all seriousness – Gordie quietly but earnestly notes, “we’re all in love with the same girl and her name is Poole Speedway!” This love of a lifetime has inspired devotion from a very large number of suitors in the Poole area; I’m sure that Gordie still has rival suitors despite the time, care and attention conscientiously lavished upon her by Gordie over the years!
At the age of 60, it’s his 54th season and enthusiasm remains resolutely undiminished while he carries out his many duties throughout the stadium. It’s a “full-time job” that involves “dealing with sponsors and riders; all the admin of invoicing and contracts as well as [his own speciality] working with the press”. On a race night, these responsibilities revolve around a very strong element of pastoral care for the riders and the various employees of the track. He also has to ensure that the many administrative tasks, that pack the hours that lead up to a race day, all go smoothly. Throughout all this intense activity, Gordy is keen to stress that, “we still like to enjoy ourselves though!” As we wander to the far side of the stadium to try to sort out the exact whereabouts of the key for a locked gate, we briefly pop into his office handily located on the apex of the first bend. Gordy also has to search for a solution that will allow the electronic scoreboards to actually work at tonight’s meeting, since the laptop which contains the required software program to operate them is, unfortunately, absent having “been borrowed” since last week. It’s precisely these unexpected tasks and problems that it’s Gordie’s responsibility to quickly resolve. The required software program isn’t easily or widely available, since it had to be specially commissioned and developed by the club because the complexity of the metrics required, to accurately run a speedway scoreboard and its score system, is very specialised.
The idea that you might answer your own software requirements is symptomatic of the trend, at Wimborne Road, to try to control, wherever possible, your own affairs and destiny. This equally applies to all activities throughout the stadium and includes their own track shop for which they mostly produce and source their own Poole merchandise and memorabilia to sell on these premises. Not only does this enable the club to ensure that they control the quality of the products but that they always manage to maximise the revenues and profits from these activities. An example of this strategy of control and ownership, would be the recent set up of their company, Pirate Videos, to produce their own videos, and latterly DVDs, of all the speedway fixtures run under their auspices at Wimborne Road. Given the importance and popularity of the club within the local area, their aim to retain these revenues and profits is to be admired as sensible business practice and, in the context of the spiralling expenses that afflict the sport generally, makes strategic sense. Particularly so, at a successful club like Poole, with its back-to-back League Championship and Cup victories, because these regular triumphs will have boosted its already healthy weekly attendances and further increased the demand for its Pirates branded merchandise.
Nonetheless, they don’t rest on their laurels at Poole Speedway, so they also have a very proactive relationship with the local media and go to great lengths to ensure that the radio, television and newspapers have all the information they require. This is managed and coordinated by Gordie, to ensure the national and regional media has the appropriate level of access to the riders, management and other club officials. This thereby enables the print and broadcast media to create interesting news pieces or to provide regular insightful comment for their readers, listeners or viewers. It’s a very well-oiled and efficient PR machine, which Gordie professes himself happy with, since it generates a level of coverage that befits its importance and its own view of itself, within the local region and, to a lesser extent, nationally. Not that as a truly professional PR man Gordie ever really rests from his continual search for more avenues and new ways to make Poole Speedway appear fresh and all the more thrilling to his extensive network of contacts. I watch Gordie carry out many last-minute tasks in the blazing hot sunshine as we rush around the grounds of the stadium, while his pride in the club shines through in the wealth of anecdotes and snippets about Poole speedway that pepper his conversation. Speedway is a very broad church and he’s been privileged enough to have met and known a wide variety of its many unique characters, from riders, too numerous to mention, as well as many others that form the great and the good of the sport. Whatever the capacity of their involvement, within Poole Speedway or at other speedway clubs, whether they’re promoters, reporters, fans, mechanics or from the back office staff; at some juncture, Gordie’s path has inevitably crossed with them. Consequently, Gordie has a rich network of people, met throughout the years that he’d consider friends as well as an extensive catalogue of incidents, events and memories to fondly remember or endeavour to recall. Sadly diplomacy and discretion, never mind his job position, dictate that these stories remain confidential!
Whether he talks about notable individuals off the track – from Dave Lanning to Ian Wooldridge (“who lost his hair banging his head on the wooden roof of the old stand”) – or on the track, you really could listen to Gordie for hours. You can readily believe him when he says “I still feel like a little lad when I walk into Poole stadium, particularly as so many of my heroes have ridden here!” Doing the public relations work that he does for the speedway club is “an ideal job that just knocked on my door, one day” and involves the simple proposition of “getting them interested and keeping them interested”. All jobs and sports have their irritations or faults and for Gordie these are the frequent “rule changes” and “guest riders”. Another slight bugbear is that he wishes some other speedway promotions, and their press officers would “take the sport more seriously” (like he does and the Poole promotion does) but, ultimately, he only really feels any anger towards some of the ill-informed “idiots that go on the Internet”. These anonymous people anger him, particularly those whose opinions cause unnecessary damage or who are erroneously given undue importance by others, even when they are not in full possession of the true facts or the complete picture. Gordie prides himself that he goes out of his way to always listen to any of the “7,000 people who come here every fortnight”. He is adamant that he will speak with absolutely anyone who wants to come up and talk about what’s on their mind as well as what concerns, troubles or delights them about the Poole club.
Gordy has seen so much over the years and so believes that, despite the inevitable changes in popularity, personalities and equipment, speedway remains a “macho sport” with the ever-present danger of injury for any of the riders involved. The example that immediately springs to his mind concerns former rider John Davis, whose horrific scars from his career includes the 250 stitches he required after an accident on the track; he then concedes it’s “part and parcel” of the work, “they fall off and get hurt”. Although Gordy is of the school of thought that the riders shouldn’t sit around too long after they’ve claimed on “their insurance” but should always remember “that it’s best to come back quickly”, particularly before the understandable “doubts can set in” the riders’ minds about the possible dangers or long-term advisability of regularly competition in the sport. Most riders do rush back extremely quickly, get back on their bikes and start to race again after an accident, often too early and without proper recovery so, to judge them by their actions, it’s an opinion shared by the majority of modern speedway riders. Ultimately in Gordie’s opinion, when it comes to the speeds generated or the combustible and potentially lethal combination of men and machines “there’s no such thing as a safe safety fence!”
Unable to resolve the scoreboard problem without the laptop, we stroll back out into the bright sunlight. The “weather’s too good for speedway”, Gordie jokingly concedes, before he banters with the catering staff as to whether the club would be better served by an outdoor barbeque tonight, “just imagine it now with the aroma of roasting prawns and meat drifting across the stadium”. After we retreat back to the cool shade of the reception area, Poole co-promoter Mike Golding talks animatedly with Gordie about the match programme for tonight’s fixture, which he was studying intently when we arrived. I’m impressed at the intensity of his interest in this document and the level of attention that he gives to the small but important details that make up its content. He’s not happy with the quality of the photographs that have been included, ”they look really anaemic inside this week”, and though his critical comments were a softly spoken aside I’m sure that they’ll be promptly acted upon, but is the sort of detail that would probably rules the club out of contention in the annual Speedway Star programme awards. This further demonstrates that the professionalism exhibited throughout this speedway organisation starts at the top of the club and doesn’t happen by accident. Their brief conversation is bizarrely interrupted by the arrival of a courier with surprise gifts for Mike, “for all your help at the [Cardiff] GP”. These tokens of esteem are a gift-wrapped bottle of some sort along with an incongruously large bunch of flowers, which Mike quickly puts down as though not to be seen with them. Gordie and I then head off through the large, spacious and glass-fronted home-straight grandstand to investigate the situation in the pits among the Poole riders and mechanics.
Gordie has a word for everyone in the pits, with all the Pirates’ and the Eagles’ riders, staff and mechanics, as this area gradually crowds out with people as they prepare for the rapidly approaching start time. Gordie’s role with his riders appears to be to adopt the role of a benevolent uncle for his charges. In this capacity, he spends considerable time with Poole’s young Polish star rider and heat leader with the very bright dyed blond hair, Krzysztof Kasprzak (KK), mostly to offer reassurances about the accommodation difficulties he experiences when he rides in England. These problems inevitably result from the logistical demands that a gifted riders’ travel schedule will place upon them, their machines and mechanics throughout the period of their career when they ride in the Polish, Swedish and British Leagues as well as the Grand Prix. Krzysztof carries on his family dynasty and destiny, since he has followed in his father Zenon’s footsteps to become a successful rider, albeit in a slightly more complicated era of frequent inter-country air travel that is required in order to fulfil complex race commitments. KK’s schedule for the week has already seen him ride in Poland on Sunday, Coventry on Monday and Sweden on Tuesday before recently arriving this afternoon in Poole. The next week will find him with yet another demanding schedule that involves Poland, England, Sweden, England (for two nights, hurrah), the Czech Republic, Poland and England again. This type of schedule is not at all uncommon for a select cadre of Elite riders throughout the summer months at the height of the season. It’s also something for which they are well rewarded by their various clubs and sponsors as well as being personally cosseted throughout, as much as possible, by all parties who keenly try to protect their investment.
From Poole’s perspective, it’s vital to ensure that they’ve considered every possible aspect of all their riders’ schedules and, in this instance, to ensure that KK arrives on time and as refreshed as possible for every Poole meeting that they expect him to compete in for them. Thereby, with the potential distraction of all these details taken care of, the team will, hopefully, perform to its best abilities without incurring the irksome and unnecessary fines that are inevitably levied when some riders don’t turn up. This is a far from simple task, one that is already fraught with difficulty and anxiety when it applies to just one member of your team but, exponentially much more complicated, when it also applies to three other gifted riders within your team like it does for Poole Speedway. Ryan Sullivan, Bjarne Pedersen and Antonio Lindback all operate in this frequent-flyer realm of demanding inter-country travel schedules and also remain of vital importance to Poole’s chances of success on the track. It’s the type of challenge that other tracks, with less prestigious rosters, would relish. Though it’s no surprise to Gordie that Poole have such a roster of star riders since “everyone wants to ride for Poole” and he knows the club can attract riders with this high level of ability because “it’s easy with the crowds we get”. The present appeal of Poole has been gained under the “shrewd” stewardship of promoters Mike Golding and Matt Ford but another strong influence is the appeal of the chance to work under the expert guidance and tutelage of the England and Poole team manager, Neil ‘Middlo’ Middleditch. Gordie believes that if the club management and facilities are “good enough for the five times world champion Tony Rickardsson”, then they should be even more acceptable for anyone else of lesser abilities!
Back in the realm of the practical realities of speedway life for its riders, Krzysztof finds himself at work in the home side of the pits with his uncle Darek, who is hired by KK to work with him in England. Primarily his role is to be a mechanic, but, also, to be a familiar face and someone with whom KK can speak in Polish without the further difficulties that attempts to communicate in your second or third language can cause on a day-to-day basis. It’s a very sensible approach for the rider’s own mental equilibrium and it definitely benefits Poole, as a team, to have a gifted and contented rider. However, there are still some outstanding logistical concerns about the locally rented house that will be used on the nights that KK intermittently stays in the Poole area. Gordie is taciturn with KK who manages to combine an interesting mix of polite and excitable, along with his broken English, when he outlines the problem. In contrast, Gordie exudes a confident calm as he reassures him that it’ll be easily sorted and that, instead, he should just concentrate on what he does best – his riding. After we walk on, it’s noticeable that KK resumes the impressive display of warm up callisthenics we originally interrupted. This involves sprints up and down the length of the home pits lane before he again continues with his various athletic stretches and bends.
Further down the pit lane Poole’s polite, perfect English speaker and intelligent Swedish reserve, Tobias Johansson, isn’t plagued with such a difficult travel schedule but, instead, has had some problems to adapt to the particular demands that racing on UK tracks requires. In comparison to Sweden, it really doesn’t help that the tracks in the UK are mostly completely different from each other, “it’s a different structure in the UK with tight corners”. The fact that our tracks bear little similarity to the type and shape of the tracks Tobias has grown up with, and learnt to ride on, is a major problem that continues to affect his mental approach and confidence. Consequently, he’s failed to achieve the level of form that he exhibits in Sweden. It’s a situation that worries him and the club. Even more mystifyingly to Tobias, when he thought about and investigated possible explanations for his lacklustre form, are the comparisons he can make with other riders that he regularly beats in Sweden. For example, included in tonight’s opposition for Eastbourne is David Norris, who is a “successful rider in England” but in the Swedish League “he struggles as a reserve with only a three or four point average”. But, for Tobias, the situation is reversed. We leave Tobias to ponder the mystery of it all, just as the flame-haired Poole team manager, Neil ‘Middlo’ Middleditch, arrives to motivate, counsel and manage his riders who are already in the pits to prepare their equipment.
Excitingly I then get to walk round the freshly watered and newly prepared surface of the Poole track in the blazing sunshine with Gordie as he patiently outlines to me that, for most local fans, the Middleditch family represent a “dynasty at Poole”. Neil’s father “rode from 1950 to 1962” before he then went on to manage the team but, throughout, still remained “an absolute gentleman”. Neil also rode for the club that he now manages and is “Poole Speedway through and through”. Gordie would be only too happy to introduce me to Neil later, for a brief word, if there happens to be a temporary and convenient respite in his managerial duties. [Footnote 1 the Poole track surrounds a large centre green with its historic football pitch. It is hallowed turf upon which the famous Middlesbrough footballer and hero, Wilf Mannion, actually played on for Poole Town in 1948. Gordie often delighted ex-World Champion, former Poole rider and committed Middlesbrough fan, Gary Havelock, when he reminded him of this fact.] Gordie patiently explains the weekly difficulty that the management the racing surface of the Poole track creates because of the different drying times that various sections of the track exhibit. The vagaries of the weather and its basic layout regularly combine to ensure that some areas are more difficult to prepare and subsequently ride than other apparently similar sections. This particularly affects those parts of the track prone to shade, such as the third bend where, as we walk round, it’s evidently the wettest. Overall, the Elite League “mostly has good racing surfaces” so, usually, it’s a negligible factor in the perception that speedway is “a hard game” or one that “people pretend to be hard”. Gordie immediately corrects himself, “the job is hard, there’s no need for pretence” since it’s a sport that’s “often raced high on adrenalin”, with riders often getting “uppity, when they stand and shout and scream” but away from all the action “really they’re all pussycats”.
From Shale Trek
Another passenger in the car will be a diffident young man who’s stood with our group and turns out to be a reporter from the Speedway Star. “I’m Paul Burbidge”. Anyone who reads the Speedway Star on a regular basis will have seen the Paul Burbidge by-line. It’s increasingly appeared on a diverse range of articles about speedway personalities, clubs and major events. Paul belongs to the new generation of young reporters who bring youthful verve, insight and élan to their writing on the sport. Though he only lives 70 miles from the Isle of Wight, Paul hasn’t previously been to a speedway meeting there. His trip this afternoon and evening to the Challenge Meeting against Bournemouth will form the basis for a subsequent two-page article in the Speedway Star about a trip to what he describes as “British Speedway’s unique outpost”.
When I suggest to Paul that he’s the only one in our group not working for nothing he replies, “Well, sort of …” Paul tries to establish with Roy what attractions he can look forward to on the Island but doesn’t thrill to news there’s a brand new Tesco on the Island. “I’m doing a feature on the logistics of running the Club on the Island. It looks like a massive logistical exercise getting everyone across the Solent to the Stadium. I haven’t been to the Island since I was 10, I think”. Paul covers football as well as speedway but it sounds like speedway is his first love. Apart from his work with the Speedway Star, he also produces reports and articles for the Bournemouth Echo, the Dorset Echo and the Press Association. “I do a bit of football at Portsmouth for them. I get more work if they stay in the Premiership! The Internet has changed a lot of the week’s news. It’s very different nowadays to what it was. We’ve got to move with the times!” Roy’s keen to let us know that he too has embraced new technology, “I use the Internet to sell the advertising boards. I sent two invoices by post and 34 by email.” With an assortment of speedway riders’ vans and various other vehicles just about to be given the signal they can drive onto the ferry, we make our way out to John Bramall’s red Skoda with Roy on his mobile phone still orchestrating yet more administration. Paul has a brief panic about his ticket, (“Did you give me mine?”) Roy remains phlegmatic (“I thought I did”). While we wait for permission to drive on board, Paul gives a brief run through his speedway reporting career. “I’ve been doing it since 2003 really, since the Pirates did the treble!” In recent years Poole have been used to considerable success on the track, large crowds and, of course, from a press point of view, there’s the addition benefit that if you get to deal with the best Press Officer in British Speedway, Gordie Day. Paul treats it a privilege to cover Poole and to work with Mr Day, “He does talk in riddles sometimes but, if you listen long enough, it all falls into place!”….
….Gordie’s keen interest in and love of music isn’t something I previously knew about. “Bournemouth has been a real breeding ground for musicians in this country. I remember when Tony Blackburn was a singer in a band called Tony Blackburn and the Rovers. They were just a Bournemouth band. Shows his sense of humour hasn’t changed at all. I saw Zoot Money and the Big Roll Band with Andy Summers playing lead guitar for them – he’d later go on to gain world fame with The Police. I saw all my heroes at the Winter Gardens. So many people played there or got their big breaks there. Some perfected their skills outside – Ralph McTell and Al Stewart were both buskers in and around Bournemouth during the early 60s. I played for a band called the Stoolpigeons from 1963 to 1965 (they split up in 1966) before leaving to work in London. I played for a number of bands in and around the London until coming back to the Poole area in 1973. The last gig I played was 1989 in Seattle in Washington State. We played quite a few times in America. Phil Katz from Seattle started me and my wife going to America. I played with him. He’s a Professor of Mathematics and his son is a humongous guitarist and works for Disney. I love America. The people are so friendly and there are those beautiful lakes in Seattle. I went there in 1979 and 80 and learnt about Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese food for the first time. We had a seven-week holiday and it took me months to get used to England again and not being able to go out at 9 o’clock to eat and to eat anything we liked! The music community is just as close as the speedway community.”
From Quantum of Shale
After a walk through the back-straight grandstand bar and disco area towards the pits in search of Poole Press Officer, Gordie Day. He’s widely seen as the best speedway Press Officer in British speedway and sets the standard by which all others are judged (and, unluckily for their clubs, often found wanting). Gordie wears his expertise lightly and, on any race day in Dorset, dashes hither and thither but always has time to have a few thoughtful words with pretty well everyone he encounters. When I find him, typically he’s down the far end of the Poole pits deep in conversation with one of the rider’s mechanics. He gradually works his way along the riders’ bays and then has an animated chat with Poole team manager Neil ‘Middlo’ Middleditch. It appears that everyone at Poole Speedway this afternoon has some form of hand injury since Middlo also has a strapped-up wrist. It turns out his bandage is the result of a mountain bike injury…..
…Gordie returns with the would-be sponsors and their broad smiles tell their own story. Gordie waves them off with a few polite words and pleasantries before he continues his race-day meet and greets with various members of staff and the small knot of Poole fans that have congregated there to wait to have a word with him. After the breeze has been shot, with no time for the grass to grow under his feet, Gordie strides purposefully back across to the centre green and kindly poses for a photograph by one of the tractors parked there. Proud of the club, but offhandedly modest about his own contribution, Gordie takes me on my own track walk. Just to find the time for such a gesture is a mark of the man and it’s a privilege I appreciate, particularly given how many other people he could be with and all the things he has to do. Gordie speaks frankly about some of the current issues facing the sport. “You should ask yourself all sorts of questions. For example, why haven’t BSI been able to get more sponsors with national or internationally known brand names? They were close to getting Vodafone in 2005 – for the Team Speedway idea – but, once they heard that if Antonio Lindback got injured they had no replacement (unlike Formula 1 where they have the car and just get another driver), they walked away! I think when he arrived John Postlethwaite thought he’d become the Bernie Ecclestone of Speedway but, once he got here, he realised there was no money in it! Sunseeker [makers of yachts, sports boats, performance motor-yachts and offshore cruisers] is the biggest company in Poole but they’re not going to sponsor speedway as none of the crowd – the demographic, as they call it now – can afford a yacht! I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but speedway’s dying! Look how many Coventry had [on Sky] the other night! Clubs just can’t survive on these crowds! Look at the crowds and what do you think the average age is? They’re old! Possibly sixty plus, and we’re all going to die. Fuel costs go up, admission prices, food, everything goes up, and the one thing that doesn’t is the pension. Would you come and watch it every week if you had to pay? You have to ask how and why has speedway frittered away the gift of 10 years of prime-time coverage on Sky? It must tell you either something about the appeal of the sport or the people running it or, even, its wider appeal!”
“What’s going to happen with Peterborough? If they go out of business, is promotion and relegation going to work? I don’t think so! We need to adopt the system they have in baseball and football in the US. We should abolish the Elite League and Premier League and just have Northern and Southern Leagues. Then there are local derbies, each league has its own play-offs and the winners of each conference race-off to be overall champions. We also need to get the connection back with the clubs!” I ask whether Gordie means connection for the riders or the fans. “Both! If you look back in the past, the Poole team had five or six riders that would return each year. And some youngsters bubbling under who might, or might not, make it. You pretty well knew who the team would be without having to think about it! Nowadays, the riders change clubs so often we don’t really know the make-up of the team, never mind the fans. When you go to Eastbourne, how many youngsters do you see? Everyone says we have lots of kids, but, they’re brought by their grandparents not their parents. Speedway just isn’t the main entertainment anymore! It is for a few people but they’re not aged between 15 and 30 with lots of disposable income. These people would be the future of the sport! Or the future of whatever they decide to spend their money on. We all love and respect our present fans – they’re our lifeblood – but they’re ageing and times are tough! We’re even struggling here this year and Poole is an essential and integral part of this community! Sure new clubs start and have big crowds in the first flush of enthusiasm, but, where will they be in five years? When Somerset first opened it had 3,000 but now it has 1,000. That is the trend over time – unless speedway reinvents itself as sexy and interesting for the youth and the young adults of today. Presently that just isn’t happening. Look around you, speedway needs to sort itself out sooner rather than later. With the crowds there are nowadays, it can’t support the level of cost. We need the excitement back! We want people to say ‘I really want to see Eastbourne’, not ‘Oh, how many times have they been here this season already!’ No matter what happens, we always do well here at Poole, but we need everyone else to be doing well if the sport as a whole is to survive! We do well because we have high standards. I remember Neil Street telling Jason off when he was winning all his races as a junior (“a good rider would have been under you then”). You have people who are prepared and want to pass on their knowledge. Chris Holder won’t be having his name on the side of the van and thinking he’s made it, ’cause he’ll still have his feet on the ground. When he gets 12, Boycie or someone, will tell him he should have got 14. We know we do well here but if you look around [speedway] you can see things need to change, if we’re all to have a future!”
26 Shades of Shale
Ex-Poole Pirates press officer Gordie Day laments the road that took us to this situation. “We should have walked away from the FIM years ago. I’m sure Bob Dugard would agree if you asked ‘what have the FIM ever done for speedway?’ We should have formed our own association like Formula 1 or the MotoGP. They haven’t got silencers and, if you chat to Boycie, he tells you that the sound of 30 bikes at the start of the MotoGP is unbelievable! You have to remember that the noise at speedway is part of the show! It sounds like they’re doing 80 when really the average is below 50. Think about it? If you stand on the pavement and hear a car go by with an old exhaust, you think they’re doing 70 – when it’s only 35 or 40! Okay, we’re different to the MotoGP because we’re a city centre sport but the noise is still part of our show!”
Photo credit: Bournemouth Echo