Speedway Grand Prix 2009 – Rider earnings

The fastidious Charles McKay has now collated the cumulative Speedway Grand Prix prize money totals earned by each rider during the recently completed 2009 season. They make pitiful reading for many riders concerned and also their accountants (but do accord with the derisory levels set by the FIM rules and regulations). Based on these figures alone, it can’t be even vaguely economic for most of the riders to compete in the series if, for example, you only factor in their increased travel and equipment expenses.

British Speedway also continues to pay a high cost each season in terms of intermittent and/or selective rider absenteeism during the course of each ‘long’ season. But the ongoing damage could also potentially be even more catastrophic long term – particularly if the self-interested cries of anguish from the ‘top riders’ that the British Elite League season is too long, that there are too many meetings ridden on different nights etc gains enough credence to eventually lead to structural change and, effectively, the abolition of ‘top tier’ weekend racing in Britain. Effectively such a change would merely be to accommodate the narrow commercial interests of the SGP circus and its field of notionally ‘world class’ competitors. We often hear about the packed schedule of riders who compete in the British, Polish and Swedish leagues (to name but three). Obviously, these demanding itineraries are compounded for all riders who chose to compete, qualify to compete or – in real grace and favour, true tug your forelock feudal fashion – get picked by the speedway experts found within the SGP/IMG management team as wild cards. (Blindfold pin the tail on the donkey sometimes looks a preferable wild card selection method in comparison to the informed deliberations of the small coterie of experts drawn from this particular inner circle).

Of course, the decision (once picked or qualified) to compete in any SGP series is the riders’ right as self-employed workers but , ultimately, not really sufficient reason or justification to throw away eighty years of racing tradition in this country. We hear so often nowadays about the need to adapt – aka a convenient shorthand for the idea of ‘fixed’ Elite League racing nights – that you could half suspect it’s become the speedway equivalent of a Buddhist chant. Often without apparent irony, there’s wild talk of meaningless Elite League fixtures from riders (or their tame press representative advocates) who, nonetheless, conveniently forget that they also compete in the many turgid rounds of the borefest that the SGP has become. Clearly some promoters who operate midweek tracks will be in favour of such change to shore up their strategic, competitive and (possibly) financial positions. Bizarrely, some promoters even advocate, tacitly or implicitly, a measured form of entente cordiale and compromise with the SGP. This, despite the fact, it’s only ever been a parasitic one-way street, never mind the long held perception that the SGP couldn’t give a monkey’s about British Speedway and remain sanguine if they or the riders take the proverbial. However, it’s an unavoidable and incontrovertible fact that most well attended sports in this neck of the woods (and practically all countries elsewhere) pretty well all take place over the weekend or, at least, the extended Friday to Monday weekend that television sports coverage has gradually foisted upon us all.

A reasonable question could be posed, namely ‘why does British Speedway have to suffer (any more than the BSPA directs) by further compromising its traditions?’ Particularly when this appears to be for an independent commercial party with no connection or investment in British Speedway. If this were a detective novel or murder mystery, any half decent investigator would automatically ask ‘who really benefits from this?’ Based on the figures below, it’s clearly neither the majority of the riders nor British Speedway that emerges financially triumphant. If the siren voices for radical change (and supposedly moving with the times) are heeded, would the reduced EL fixture list so many are apparently in favour of demonstrate a pragmatic way to work round the SGP elephant in the room? More likely, it would be a bodged solution too far and signal itself as the precursor to the further inexorable decline of an already diminished top tier racing product?

1 Jason Crump $101,600 £67,811
2 Emil Sayfutdinov $84,300 £53,388
3 Tomasz Gollob $72,650 £47,225
4 Greg Hancock $60,200 £39,130
5 Andreas Jonsson $58,550 £39,263
6 Nicki Pedersen $54,650 £35,775
7 Rune Holta $53,750 £34,852
8 Kenneth Bjerre $53,050 £35,080
9 Fredrik Lindgren $52,150 £33,894
10 Hans Andersen $51,650 £33,581
11 Leigh Adams $49,500 £32,445
12 Sebastian Ulamek $46,350 £30,207
13 Chris Harris $42,350 £27,595
14 Grezegorz Walasek$41,950 £27,355
15 Scott Nicholls $38,500 £25,761
16 Neils K Iversen $13,900 £8,938
17 Antonio Lindback $12,000 £7,736

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