The strange case of the new ‘new’ start time for Cardiff 2012 Speedway Grand Prix
BSI just announced a change to the start time of the 2012 FIM British Speedway Grand Prix at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on August 25th 2012 from 5pm to 6pm apparently completely forgetting that Paul Bellamy hailed their decision to adopt an earlier (5pm) start time as a sign of how fan friendly BSI are nowadays. Indeed, it’s only 14 months since that Mr Bellamy complained that fans were gouged with extortionately high hotel prices in Cardiff as well as suffered woefully poor public transport services out from Cardiff on a Saturday night after a SGP. While he temporarily wore his fans’ friend credentials with pride, Mr Bellamy casually threw around further platitudinous publicity friendly (but soon to be forgotten) statements about BSI’s commitment to addressing the cost, day out and tiredness worries of speedway families attending.*
Scarcely credibly – according to the report in the Speedway Star (6th July 2011) – the latest switch in start times is blamed on the serial inability of Sky Sports to attract “casual viewers” to actually watch speedway on the gogglebox. Ignoring that, judged by the official BARB viewing figures, they have an ongoing problem getting speedway fans to watch many live broadcast of speedway on Sky Sports (whether standard EL fare or the SGP), said report also states, “while the earlier start time has undoubtedly been popular with fans attending the event, Sky Sports have understandably argued that it has had a detrimental affect on their TV audience.” Weirdly – totally flying in the face of this claim and bucking the trend – the UK television audience for Cardiff actually rose in 2011! Rather than celebrate the fact that the BARB viewing figures for the Cardiff SGP increased by 43,000 (over 55%) in 2011 to 120,000 (albeit from a lamentably poor 77,000 in 2010) spokespeople for BSI prefer to peddle this piffle instead rather than make a song and dance about the improvement in their UK television audience.
Sooo, either the reasons reported for the change to 6pm are convenient but immediately flimsy excuses not borne out by the viewing figures (obviously, those that doubt the efficacy of the industry standard BARB figures can continue ignore these ‘bigger’ audiences too). Or, alternatively, Sky Sports oft spoken about but never published own allegedly rosy ‘private’ speedway viewing figures have worryingly plunged to disastrous levels!
Whatever the real reason, it sadly remains the case that – after brief respite – those fans who turn up and pay good money to watch the Cardiff SGP live remain marginalised by BSI in favour of the interests of BSI’s underperforming television partners.
* Paul Bellamy said, “We were able to bring it forward two hours, that gives the fans the chance to see the whole evening and get home that night…if you can’t afford it, you’ve still got a chance to get back but not miss the main event…a lot of our fans are families, they’ve got young kids….they’d be getting home at midnight, the kids would shattered. Now, with a 5 o’clock start, you can bring the children, eight o’clock you’re on your way. That has been a success.”