Brummies ….Pride, Passion and Responsibility.

BRUMCAMPAIGNIt was a sad, sad day. Grown men and Women wiping tears from there eyes, some openly weeping. We had just finished watching what is likely to be the last ever time that a team bearing the name ‘Birmingham Brummies’ takes to the track. I am not ashamed to say that I was one of those with a wet face at the match end as emotion got the better of me and the finality overwhelmed me.

The other emotion that I felt was one of pride. Pride in my fellow supporters that cheered and shouted for every single heat. We knew that with a weakened team we were on a hiding to nothing but that didn’t matter. For once the result was not in slightest bit important. What was important was showing to our riders and our team what they mean (or should that be meant) to us. And boy did we do that.

I was also proud of our riders that understood this and rode there hearts out for us in what must have been very difficult circumstances for them. And it was very much appreciated when Belle Vue allowed them on the parade car at the end to come and meet with us. The emotion was almost unbearable but the pride and passion was important. Important for us fans and, I think for the riders too. It was good to hear Danny King to say to us “This isn’t over yet.” Danny is known for never giving up on the track and he isn’t about to give up now.

A quick mention must be made at this point for Nico Covatti. You could tell that Nico was riding with his heart and we loved him for it. Thank you Nico it was very much appreciated I can tell you.

The title of this piece is Pride, Passion, and Responsibility. I have so far spoke about the Pride and Passion shown at Belle Vue. Now its time to move onto the Responsibility. There has been a lot of finger pointing and general gnashing of teeth over the last few weeks and this is to be expected given the situation we find ourselves in. But I think that the responsibility needs to be shared between the following People: –

Alan and Charles Phillips.
Tony Mole.
The fans.
The Brummies Forum.
The B.S.P.A.

This will of course ruffle many feathers but that is not my aim. Its just that I think lessons need to be learned, particularly if by some miracle we recover from this situation. So let me give my views one by one.

Alan and Charles Phillips.

This, of course is where the buck stops. Of course they are culpable in this, they had there hand on the tiller when the ship ran aground. Please don’t get me wrong I don’t believe that Alan and Charles had anything other than good intentions. This hasn’t happened by design more by bad management and loose lips. But you cant get away from the fact that they were captains of the ship and therefore have to take their fair share of the blame. (Don’t think I can stretch the ship analogy any further!) It is sad to see them trying to shift the blame onto the fans, even though it is my belief that we fans do need to shoulder some responsibility. This has and continues to be there biggest mistake. Once you lose the trust of the clubs supporters you are lost and might as well man the lifeboat. (Oops I was wrong I can stretch the analogy.) There have been reports that Alan Phillips only a few weeks ago stood in front of a group of supporters and stated that the club had no debts. This it now transpires is patently not true even though Charles Phillips has tried to use semantics to state it was true. I don’t think that semantics is an argument you are ever going to win given the current position. And yet they are still trying to get supporters to dip into there pockets. There are two truths here. Supporters don’t have spare amounts of cash lying around (If they did they would probably buy a speedway club!) and even so if asked in the right way they would still dip into there pockets. Proof of this is evidenced in the response to the save Birmingham Speedway fund which had over £3000 pledged within half an hour of going live.

Truthfully if Alan and or Charles did the honourable thing, even now and put there hands up just to state simply “We got it wrong.” they would get much more respect from the supporters many of whom are ready to say thanks for trying. Having said that I don’t agree with the demonisation of Alan and Charles Phillips that has taken place on the various forums I would imagine that they are hurting too.

Tony Mole
This will be a quick one. Firstly it cannot be said often enough. Without Tony Mole there would be no Birmingham Speedway. And for that alone I think he should be on the Queens new year honours list. When you add the other clubs that Tony has been involved in I think that it is a travesty that he hasn’t been recognised.

When Tony sold the club to Alan Phillips and Chris Luty Tony stated that his overiding concern was making sure whoever took over the club would be safe hands. This has proven to be not the case. So Tony needs to accept a small amount of responsibility but tempered with the knowledge that we all were bowled over by the initial enthusiasm of Alan and Chris.

The fans.
We need to take responsibility for two things. My second point will be dealt with when I talk about the Brummies Fans Forum. Put quite bluntly not enough of us turned up. There are supporters out there that have stopped coming. They still watch from afar but for one reason or another they don’t attend Perry Barr. If you are one of those, shame on you. (I of course exclude those who cannot come due to finances and/or have too far to travel.) To be even more blunt if we don’t turn up in more numbers (and we are not talking thousands here.) we don’t deserve to have speedway in Birmingham.

The Brummies Fans Forum.
I have over the years been a habitual poster on the forum. I love the place and the people that frequent it. Let me be clear here I am a big advocate of free speech. But the problem with free speech is that sometimes people make stupid choices. Over the years we have had many posters who’s sole aim appears to be to destabilise the club. But this year in particular has seen this process  sink to new depths. When the clubs fan base is so fragile it only takes one lone voice speaking with apparent inside knowledge to tip the club into insolvency. Sometimes it’s ok to have an opinion and its even ok to share the opinion but on a public forum? Sometimes it is best to keep your mouth shut or risk ruining the club you profess to love. So if you are one of those (and there are not many) you should accept your share of the responsibility but I expect they wont as these people only see blame in one place and have been responsible for much of the aforementioned demonisation of Alan and Charles Phillips. Things are rarely that black and white.

The B.S.P.A

I suspect that this is the one part of my piece that everyone will agree on. I once heard a definition of madness that went like this. It is madness to keep doing the same things and expect to get a different result. And yet year after year we get the same idea’s and year after year we lose more and more fans. And lets be clear this is not a Birmingham Speedway problem. This is a British Speedway problem. And this has never been more clearer when you hear the news that Eastbourne are selling up at the end of the season. I could probably write a book about this and I expect most fans would be able to write the same book and a sequel to it. Put simply the fans don’t like what is happening to the sport and are voting with there feet and these fans are not being replaced by younger fans because this is a secret sport. The biggest problem the sport faces is the perception that cheating is going on. It doesn’t even matter if there is cheating the perception is enough. If people feel they are being cheated they always have and always will vote with there feet. The scenes surrounding Poole’s visit to Belle Vue last year are a case in point. I have no idea if everything was above board on that night or not. But whatever the truth things happened that night that left Poole open to the accusation of cheating and nothing was said about it by the B.S.P.A. This is disrespectful in the extreme in my opinion.

So many things that need sorting. Double riders and their availability being a big one. Fans and particularly younger fans don’t want to see a rider they have no connection with riding for their team. This is not rocket Science.

There are also things that could be sorted out so quickly and simply it beggars belief that they have not.

Meetings take to long to run and there is no need for it. (Of course if a rider is injured or there is damage to the track this is different and people will generally understand this.) People don’t want to stand around twiddling there thumbs so speed it up for gods sake. This is called SPEEDway!

For instance.
If there is an unsatisfactory start the riders should not be allowed to go anywhere other than straight back to the tapes. Personally I believe that a time limit of one minute should suffice, that starts  automatically as soon as the red lights go on. Obviously if a rider has come off that is a different thing.

I understand why the tape touching rule was brought in. It was brought in to stop the shenanigans that used to delay the start. Except all to often we have even longer delays. There are two ways of stopping this in my opinion. One way is do not allow rolling forward of any type including anticipating the start. Should a rider do so he gets a yellow card. Do it again (at any time in the meeting) a red card and your out. Or (my preference.) allow rolling and allow anticipation. Make it part of the game. (As it should be.) and if a rider gets a flyer then well done. In other words if they don’t touch the tapes everything is fine.

And if someone touches the tapes why oh why do we allow another rider to take his place (and have yet another delay as that rider prepares.) Touch the tapes and you go off 15 meters and you are automatically on 1 minute.

Lets talk about the double points tactical. Fans hate this rule. They hate it with a passion. Is this the only sport that doesn’t listen to its customer? For me I have always thought that speedway should have a tactical element but this rule is not really tactical. There is nothing for fans to talk about here, nothing to have a debate over. I still feel that the old rule of six points behind and you can put in another rider was a much better tactical element and provided more discussion for the supporters. But for gods sake don’t ever market whatever tactical rule you use as being there to make matches artificially close. This is STUPID in the extreme and puts old and new fans off alike. Any Tactical element should only be available to the away side and its stated aim should be to even out home track advantage. All of a sudden a tactical rule becomes much more palatable to fans.

Speedway markets itself as a family sport, when it markets itself at all, and this may be a mistake on two fronts. In this day and age it may have better results with marketing itself as an extreme sport and in any case is it really a family sport? Speedway track s are a very adult oriented environment and this needs to be changed. Put simply we need to do more to engage the kids.

Some ways forward for this could be more interaction from the riders. Something simple like the riders coming out at the end of the match with goodies for the kids. Things like tear offs that they sign for instance.

How about programmes and/or race cards that are downloadable onto smart phones? Even better if the race cards are automatically scored. Speedway needs to come into the digital age and quickly.

There is much more I could say but I don’t want to labour the point.

In finishing I want to return to the subjects of Pride and Passion. In particular the Pride I feel in the Passion being shown by the supporters of Birmingham Speedway. Not prepared to just watch and let the sport die in Birmingham they are acting pro-actively. A fund has been set up to try and offset some or all of the debts owed by the speedway club and the response to this has been magnificent. Not just by the speedway public but also by the speedway family in general. If proof were needed by the B.S.P.A that the speedway public are prepared to spend money on a successfully marketed product then this surely is it. It’s up to the B.S.P.A to now respond with changes to the sport that would show us fans that finally they get it.

If you want to contribute to the fund details can be found here: –

http://www.brummiespeedway.net/forum/index.php?action=page;id=6

M.H.
Sports Radio Birmingham