Sky Sports SPEEDWAY viewing figures 2015 (to date)
Like the speedway equivalent of Frazer from Dad’s Army, last week Philip Rising – Managing Editor of the Speedway Star – once again used an opinion column in the pages of his publication to warn about the “ills” and future of British Speedway in its current form/configuration (with especial emphasis upon the travails of the Elite League). Though the pungent noxious fumes of decay waft through the deep cast mine that is British Speedway, this particular canary remains alertly in full voice.
In his keenness to alert us to the possible product deficiencies of British Speedway (particularly the Elite League), Mr Rising uses audience figures for Sky Sports Speedway 2015 live viewing figures that markedly differ to those outlined by the accepted industry standard (compiled by BARB). Mr Rising writes, “Sky’s average audience for their speedway offerings is around 80/90,000… 150,000 watched Swindon’s home meeting with Poole when Darcy Ward returned to action.” Speedway thrives on gossip, unorthodox customs, mates rates and insider information – strangely not an issue included on Mr Rising’s extensive list of possible problems stymying the success and longevity of the sport in the UK – and, perhaps, these claims are based on unpublished but actual bona fide information. That said, his use of the word “average” and “80/90,000” in the same sentence fails to suggest the accurate use of language or figures. The actual published BARB figures* for SPEEDWAY (not football as claimed on BSF) tell a completely different story:
Drawing conclusions – like Mr Rising does – from a snapshot of the viewing figures for the season so far is both difficult and foolhardy. However, we can definitely say year-to-date Sky Sports Speedway Elite League live viewing figures are nearly 8% up (to 74,000) on the 2014 average (68,563) and, if this continues, it will be a potentially encouraging second year of growth. Even if we take all the Sky Sports Speedway “offerings” together – as Philip so elegantly terms it – then the average is still above 2014 (& 2013) at 70,600. In addition, the most popular live broadcast meeting of the season, so far, was Lakeside v Wolverhampton. Given that this is the case it appears that the Darcy Ward effect (if such a thing really exists for live broadcast speedway on satellite television beyond the fevered imagination of commercially interested boosters) is to (marginally) reduce the number of viewers. Though dull but useful idiots endlessly suggest the trite solution of squad systems to attract Speedway Grand Prix ‘stars’ back to ride regularly here as the secret sauce British speedway requires, rather conspicuously viewers don’t seem to agree – given that the Lakeside meeting featured only one SGP rider (Andreas Jonsson) while Swindon had three SGP ‘stars’ (Troy Batchelor, Chris Holder & Maciej Janowski) plus SGP rider-in-waiting Darcy Ward.
Mr Rising continued his opinion column with a rather selective comparison (and his only mention of the Speedway Grand Prix), “And yet an average weekly live audience at all British tracks would be less than the 40,000 that attended the British GP at Cardiff.” Even if we generously ignore the attendance maths problems that have historically dogged the SGP and the ongoing lack of independently published/verified attendance figures for any Speedway Grand Prix meeting (including Cardiff), this opinion appears just that – an opinion that is hard to properly substantiate or verify. Though many British speedway fans cite an eye-of-the-beholder ‘better racing’ preference for the Premier League product (and possibly – if only we knew – have the cumulative weekly attendance figures to match), it would be a brave governing body that implemented the “new, exciting strategy” Mr Rising floats – combine Elite & Premier Leagues, go to six man teams and have a regional North/South split – given the comparative unpopularity of the PL compared to the EL amongst Sky Sports Speedway viewers!
* figures kindly researched by Charles McKay