Tom Garnell replies

My interviews with various people behind the scenes at Eastbourne this past season included the following comment from Kevin Coombes. “I fell into it by accident when car sharing to work I heard that the regular presenter Tom Garnell had went away for two weeks to watch F1 racing. I had my opinions on his personal style and said to my friends I could do a better job.”

Tom Garnell has kindly written to me to set the record straight and given his permission to reproduce his comments and memories. His reply is below:

“Mr. Scott

I was rather surprised to find myself mentioned in a recent speedway blog of yours looking at Eastbourne published last month. It is over 16 years since I gave up the announcing job and I hardly expected anyone to remember me, let alone criticise me.

I started announcing during Gareth Rogers reign at Arlington. I had done some broadcasting with Gareth on Radio Brighton and he asked me to stand in for Tony Boyce while Tony went off to attend a Formula One Grand Prix, he did that not me!! I ‘miked’ the Under 23 Championships with someone on the centre green. It was reasonably successful and Gareth asked me to understudy Tony. I did the odd meeting that season and then took over the following season as a lone announcer. I fell out with Gareth over his ruling that I should not announce the results of the National League, the league the Eagles were then in, but give details of Oxford, the Dugard family were involved in Oxspeed who ran the Oxford club, in the British League. So I left, I can’t remember who took over.

When Wimbledon transferred to Arlington the new promoters showed an interest in my returning, they apparently liked my style, even if others obviously didn’t.

I did the job with Jon Cook’s support until a big blow up at a meeting with Reading. In one heat the Reading pair started off the wrong gates. I pointed this out to the Referee who ordered a re-run. Bob Dugard was very upset, Paul was involved in that heat, and stormed up to the box to castigate the Ref. I suggested that the spectators were the second most important people in the stadium after the riders and as Reading were down to three riders plus a couple of kids and the Eagles were miles in front a re-run was right. Bob demanded the Reading riders be disqualified and told me, in no uncertain terms, to shut up or ship out. I finished the match but resigned. I later did one joint meeting with Kevin Coombes at Jon Cook’s request, but it didn’t work out so I never did it again.

My idea of announcing is obviously different from others. I was first and foremost there to inform, line-ups, results etc. At one time Dave Norris’ father Peter was my roving reporter in the pits and would tell me why X or Y had retired. I would tell newcomers something about the sport. I would also try to entertain in some areas, music and speedway related anecdotes, not always appreciated. I used to highlight the stadium facilities, I knew it was sometimes difficult for visitors to find their way around a strange stadium.

I was never a Centre Green clown, Gareth Rogers used to moan at me for not being ‘known’ by the supporters, but I am not very outgoing so I didn’t want to become a ‘face’.

I often got into trouble for not mentioning the teams’ sponsors. Some people didn’t like my music and the Grandstand Bar didn’t switch on the loudspeakers until the meeting started. This did result in one amusing experience when a heavy rain storm 10 minutes before a meeting caused the meeting to be cancelled. I announced that and the whole stadium emptied, except the grandstand bar. As I was about to leave the phone rang and I was asked by the barman when the meeting would start. I enjoyed telling him ‘next Saturday’.

I was often congratulated by referees, especially Frank Ebdon, for reacting quickly to crowd incidents, for example the use of bad language or the danger of physical violence between spectators.

I have written to you because I just wanted to set the record straight. I was very irritated when a friend googled my name to check on something else I’d been involved in and saw that reference in your Kevin Coombes on your blog. It seems that I was the only person to have a negative mention.

I would add that, unlike announcers before and after me, I received no money for my efforts. My wages were a cup of tea and a Kit-Kat bar at each meeting plus an extra copy of the programme to write out properly after my original programme was mullered during the meeting.

So you can post whatever you want but please don’t be too critical of me for doing my best.

All in all I did the job to the best of my ability and in my own way. Others may disagree, but after 16 years I must have left some impression.

Tom Garnell, Announcer Retired.”

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