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George Dodds's picture

I suppose one of the the good things about being a Scottish sports' fan is that you’re always free to provide a neutral’s perspective on any global sporting final.
Or for that matter a semi-final; a quarter-final indeed many sporting tournaments in their entirety; almost all past the first round.
Members of my generation have the Scottish football team to thank for an awareness that Iran and Japan even played football (or rugby) and a quest for geographical enlightenment which allows us to pinpoint Peru and the Faroe Islands on a map.
So thanks for all those kind messages following England’s defeat by South Africa in the World Cup final on Saturday – it goes without saying that there is reciprocity from Tweedmouth.
Most were delivered via the medium of social media – a somewhat unreliable thermometer of public opinion, or truthfulness, to say the least.
I was tempted by AOL’s headline promising an expose on some ginger nut member of the royal family dropping the F-bomb in the VIP enclosure in Yokohama. “The Duke of Sussex surprises Royal watchers with his strong language after watching England lose to Australia. Watch clip” it promised.
Presumably something along the lines of: “F*** me, one thought one’s chaps was playing South Africa.” Someone must have had a word as it changed later in the day.
In the modern world history can be rewritten and errors edited with a couple of keystrokes. If only Ally McLeod and Frank Haffey had lived to see the day. If only Australia had been good enough to reach the final – if only they had been good enough to beat Tonga at Rugby League.
In fairness Scotland did manage to have a team in one sporting final this Autumn. Heartfelt commiserations to the Tigers of Glasgow and a hearty slap on the back to the Lions of Leicester after they – after much rain, mud and fixture swapping – finally wrapped up the domestic Championship speedway season.
We now anticipate the outcome of speedway’s AGM later this month.
When apparently the Bandits and Kent will be racing in the top league.
Only they won’t.
Which was confusing to say they least but it was on the British Speedway Forum and – as is repeated ad nauseum on the “Why I don’t buy the Speedway Star anymore” threads on said site – everyone gets their information from the internet these days. Faster and more reliable we are told,.
Only it turns out that both Berwick and Kent will be in the Championship next season. And Aaron Summers will join Leon Flint and Jye Etheridge in Bandits' colours next season rather than returning to Glasgow. Not too surprising but indicative of how much dross on the internet is passed off as “inside knowledge”.
It normally goes along the lines of: “My mate told me that he was talking to Chris Harris’ wife’s mother’s hairdressers’ window cleaner’s nephew’s proctologist’s sister’s half-brother that Craig Cook only escaped a ban by agreeing that he would carry a weight penalty equivalent to Cammi Brown in every away meeting next season.”
True story. Not.
Other t’interweb rallying cries are for “Promoters to promote” – no helpful hints ever offered and “a radical shake-up of British speedway, not just tinkering”.
Which actually has much to recommend it but the keyboard warriors then turn themselves inside out arguing against their own ideas.
We need to bring the “big names” back … but drop admission prices; improve value for money … but return to 13 heats and a second half; stick to the rules … but allow them to be elastic whenever the author’s team suffers a setback.
Fittingly for a sport raced on closed ovals the arguments often go around in circles.
Then there is the assertion that people cannot afford to go to speedway every week – a genuine problem in areas such as the Borders where our target audience is largely made up of people working part-time for minimum wage – which would, apparently, be solved by running more meetings in a longer season. Pardon, excuse me?
Suggest the type of alternating fixture list favoured by every other team sport and pitch forks are recovered from the outhouse, flames applied to torches and mobs assembled via Twitter, Facebook and insta-rabble. Burn the witches, say no to progress. Bring back the groat and blue passports.
All in spite of the fact that the same people continually call on British speedway to take a long, hard look at Poland and Sweden – who race a relatively small number of fixtures on set days … alternatively home and away.
Poole’s decision to return to the second tier has silenced many of those who have for years banged on about how the Pirates had the blueprint of how to run a successful speedway club and every should follow suit.
Turns out they were just as beholden to sponsors as anyone else when it came to balancing the books.
AFC Bournemouth’s rise from fourth division financial basket case to long-term members of football’s Premier League meant that speedway wasn’t the number one sporting event on the southern riviera anymore and, I suspect, steered attention and, crucially, sponsor’s investment towards the falling over code.
Poole entered the real world faced by their competitors for so long and, as it turns out, didn’t have the magic touch at all and were fighting the same battles as their rivals.
Sheffield’s return to the top league effectively turns the Premiership into a Midlands league which will at least make it easier for our new TV hosts at Eurosport to lug their equipment about.
No doubt question that TV coverage gives an opportunity for those who cannot or don’t want to pay to watch live speedway but still comment freely on what should be changed in a sport to whose survival they do not contribute financially.
The free to air element of repeats on Quest and D-Max will at least extend the opportunity to a larger audience than when it was hiding behind paywalls but, other than perhaps the odd sponsorship upsell, it offers little to the sport as a whole.
If nothing else the AGM needs to bear in mind that the most important people in speedway are those that part with their cash at the turnstiles. Armchair viewers, keyboard warriors, sponsors – even riders – need to cede power to those who part with their cash on the night. They have the right to be heard and listened to.
It’s going to be a long, hard winter but, thankfully, qualifying starts soon for the world tiddlywinks championships. Scotland were hoping to “bring the cup back from over there (Oxford as it happens)” but, sadly, found themselves facing the might of the Ascension Islands in the first round.
Never mind, there’s always shinty and caber tossing …