Selected Highlights from the 2009 British Speedway Regulations

They say speedway is a simple sport. Basically, four riders on four bikes racing four laps around an oval track. The dense type and complexity of the 64 page speedway rulebook says otherwise and, though it laudably aims to outlaw cunning and manipulation, each year yet further amendments arrive.

Nowadays this rulebook often confuses the officials and the promoters, so new or novice fans will most likely struggle. You can find the new regulations for British Speedway here and they’re well worth detailed consideration in the comfort and safety of your own home.

Below are some of those that just jumped off the page.

“No protest can be lodged against a Statement of Fact (see Nomenclature) pronounced by the Referee or SCB Officer or any other executive official”

Definition of Statement of Fact = “A Referees Heat decision, a technical ruling, an MC decision regarding a Team Line-Up or eligibility of a Rider in a Meeting”

So there is no appeal against a ref’s decision on heat finish. Or, even, any grounds for appeal MC [Management Committee] decision: for example, team line-up or eligibility of a rider in a meeting. Known, unofficially, as the ‘Phone a Friend’ amendment, this regulation merely formalises current practice.

The regulations also confirm that the SCB Consultant Administrator can make binding “on the day” decisions.

SR 4.2.7
Riders can now also obtain written rulings about whether medication is permissible via Internet.

There’s no longer any excuse for accidentally using Night Nurse.

SR 6.5.2 & App A
“Each Competitor must supply and use an Environmental Mat, (one for each motorcycle taken into the Pits) which measures a minimum of 1.80 metres x 0.75 metres”

So, this year, speedway has notionally gone ‘greener’ with its specification of the size of environmental maps. Mandatory fines have been introduced – these are £100 in the EL, £50 in the PL and £25 in the NL

SR 7.4.6
“Applications for a Testimonial, Farewell or Benefit Meeting on behalf of a Rider must be made to and approved at the BSPA AGM or GC”

Same as it always was really but still fraught for some riders who’re due or deserve a testimonial.

SR 8.1.2
“Riders returning from injury involving any form of concussion (or having been diagnosed by a Track CMO as being concussed during a previous Meeting) must have clearance from the SCB Medical Advisor”

We all applaud the bravery and resilience of the riders but common sense should, sometimes, prevail.

SR 8.2.1
All meetings must have a “2nd Medical Treatment facility”

SR 8.3.1
All medical staff can have no other responsibilities during a meeting

SR 8.5.h
Medical staff must have familiarity with “ALL varieties of clothing and equipment worn by competitors” and be trained in their safe removal

Riders will still have to dress themselves prior to a meeting and, if they [fingers crossed] remain uninjured, undress themselves afterwards (unless willing volunteer help is on hand)

All new tracks constructed after 1st January 2009 must have an air fence.

“A line 4-metres from the Inner edge of the track must be marked to signify the area inside which all Personnel on the Infield must stay during track maintenance (Track Staff carrying out their duties, e.g. track grading are exempt)”

This will be difficult to police unless every track ensures the centre green is marked with clearly drawn four (and ten) metre exclusion zones. I’m not sure what the penalty will be for the inevitable infractions or who will levy the punishments. This would imply that anyone who breaks this regulation is, by their actions, uninsured!

“Essential personnel must also stay inside this 4-metre line during racing whilst non-essential personnel, e.g. Presenters, Start Girls etc. must remain at least 10 metres inside the Inner edge of the Track during racing”

A second exclusion zone will need to be marked on all centre greens (are all of them big enough?). Again what the situation with infractions is remains unclear. Sounds like sponsorship from Spirograph is just round the corner, never mind that the only way for mascots or excitable presenters to get close to the riders as they cross the finish line will be to stand on the terraces.

SR 10.43.1
Rear chain guards must be without holes or slots cut into it

SR 13.2
The National League requires a Development licence which, at £70, costs £23 more than the Amateur licence required for last year’s CL.

Given we’re crying out for up and coming British speedway riders, increasing the cost of participation doesn’t quite seem the way to find or encourage the young stars of the future.

SR 14.1
“The ANNOUNCER/PRESENTER’s role is to provide Spectators in a strictly impartial manner with information they need to reasonably understand and enjoy a Meeting. Referee’s racing decisions, instructions and statements must be announced as given by the Referee. Under no circumstances should s/he make comments that gives the impression that a protest has been/is being made against a Referee’s decision, that incites any section of the crowd, or comment on any matter that is sub judice and is responsible for the comments of any person being interviewed that does not hold an SCB Licence / Registration.”

Given the stringency of the above, this still appears to be very much in the ear of the beholder and is seen more often in the breach than the observance. Though lengthy, it’s a shame that the speedway authorities haven’t chosen to ban irksome and unnecessary commentary by announcer/presenters during the race itself (particularly on the last lap)

SR 14.2
The Clerk of the Course must have “no financial involvement with the promotion”

Unofficial investment via a third party remains an option

SR 15.13
A ‘revolutionary’ league match points system has been adopted that will distinguish speedway from almost any other sport you care to name.

“Winning Team:
Home win by 7 or more points = 3 Match points
Home win by between 1 and 6 points = 2 Match points
Away win by 7 or more points = 4 Match points
Away win by between 1 and 6 points = 3 Match points
A Draw:
Home Team = 1 Match point
Away Team = 2

Match points Defeated Team:
Home Team = 0 points
Away Team losing by 6 points or less = 1 Match point”

This innovation will make the Duckworth-Lewis method in cricket appear straightforward. All this will be hard to represent in an easy to understand sound bite or represent meaningfully table. Many promoters, fans and officials will struggle, so heaven knows how Kelvin & Nigel will cope with all the permutations during their frenetic live commentaries

SR 16.4.1
There will be no money spinning Play Off between the bottom two of EL this season.

SR 17.4.7
“Should a Guest Rider be permitted (see SR* then that Rider must be in a current NL squad**.”
* i.e. NL allows guests only for their No 1 (identified by their CMA)
** each NL team can have a squad of eight riders

SR 17.4.7
“Commonwealth Riders as permitted (see SR, subject to a maximum of 2 per club are limited to ride for a maximum of 2 consecutive seasons which must be with that same club. They cannot ride for an EL/PL Team under any circumstances, even as a Guest.”

Wonder how long before someone tries to make the case to the MC that their Commonwealth rider should be treated as an exception?

SR 18.1
“Team Line-Ups must adhere to the following, unless an exception is detailed on the BSPA approval of a Team Line-Up:
a) The Top Rider (by CMA) must ride at #1.
b) The 2nd to 5th Riders (by CMA) can ride in any position 2 – 5”

SR 18.1.1.
For the first time, Team Manager’s must provide written evidence that they have notified each other of their line-ups five days prior to the meeting

Home team nominate first and the away team then have to respond within 24 hours.

It’s rumoured that to maximise programme sales (or to ensure extra writing for everyone whose brought a blank scorecard), one customer unfriendly innovation will be the lack of accurate team line up information until just before the tapes rise. Unlike previous custom and practice, club websites will only list their riders alphabetically rather than release their actual position in the increasingly mysterious/sacred team line-ups. Under the regulations, they will have had this information for four days previously. Rather find ways to attract more fans through the turnstiles or to fight the impact of the recession on the appeal of speedway to floating fans, the media and potential sponsors, the boffins have come up with this solution to the threat of the internet and the lost programme sales it’s reputed to engender.

SR 18.1.1
These written notified line ups then cannot be changed (unless, of course, they can. But only if the moon rises in Aquarius, you know someone on the MC or other such matters. See SR 18.1.2 for more information)

SR 18.1.2
Hugely complicated list of exceptions for which a “facility” [to replace a missing rider] may be granted

Interestingly, NL allows a facility for “any absence” e.g. clearly intended for work commitments but, obviously, subject to huge and creative ‘manipulation’. Headaches, weddings, important vet appointments for sick guinea pigs, parents evenings etc will doubtless probably all figure during the course of the season.

SR 18.3
The old seven day rule to stop guests riding at the same track week in week out has now become the 180 hour rule. Genuinely cunning solution to an intractable problem though, next year, this will probably become 250 hour rule to account for promoter sophistry as well as the enforced vagaries of the fixture list caused by Sky meetings and bank holidays

SR 18.4
For RR’s, NL doesn’t restrict just to the rider directly above. E.g. No.1 can take an RR ride for missing No. 3 in NL.

SR 18.5
Tactical gate switch (after heat 4) only permitted in Knock Out Cup competition

SR 18.6
The Conference League has been renamed the National League apart from where the rules describe the play off system where it becomes the National Development League (this sounds much posher, more lustrous and like it might result in the discovery of a future British speedway World Champion)

SR 18.b.3
The top six sides will take part in the EL play offs – only the team who finish 7th or 8th will be deprived of further action – with meetings now always staged over two legs. These will additionally be operated under a handicap system where the top four teams have bonus points added to their aggregate scores in the quarter finals/semi finals (1st = 10 pts, 2nd = 6pts, 3rd = 4 pts and 4th = 2 pts). The top two teams don’t contest the quarterfinals and no handicap points adjustments apply to the Final. The highest placed team always has first choice of opponent (the highest remaining team has next choice in both quarter and semi finals) and first choice of which leg they wish to ride at home.

This adds real complexity and makes the new scoring system appear sensibly boring in comparison. In a nutshell, this has most likely been introduced to enthuse Sky, maximise revenues (remember those admissions price rises from some clubs in 2008?), never mind that the reality remains that the top two in the EL are definite to make the final unless they really, really screw up.

SR 18.b.5
This regulation covers the “Golden” Heat rules introduced to decide selected tied meetings. Hugely complex but, essentially, first team to get a heat advantage wins. Quite when this will be used I’m not exactly sure (I expect during the play offs). If done properly, this could actually be the speedway equivalent of a penalty shoot out and might well appeal to potential new fans who’ve never previously had an interest in speedway!

All rules and regulations remain Copyright (c) 2009 The Speedway Control Bureau

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