Saturday, 29 December 2012

Do The Right Thing! (reprise)

ITEM: The Ben Barker saga took another twist shortly after I wrote last week's blog, when the BSPA Management Committee ruled that, given Barker's desire to leave Coventry for Birmingham, he was available for transfer by sale. Birmingham, as Barker's last club, have first option on the transfer, and if they decide not to take up that option, he'll be made available to other clubs.

And this is where it could get complicated. Coventry will name a price. Birmingham will decide whether they can match that price. If not - and Birmingham are the only club to declare an interest - then it will go to an arbitration panel, and a fee will be set that, presumably, Birmingham will be bound to pay. But what if another club decides they can match Coventry's valuation? Presumably then Birmingham are out of the picture, and Barker doesn't get what he wants.

However, the only club that could track Barker in their side, as it currently stands, is Belle Vue, who are not exactly reported to be swimming in riches. Perhaps another club could buy Barker and make him available for loan, which Birmingham could then take advantage of, but it's hard to imagine who might see him as an investment for the future in such a manner.

No, it seems that Birmingham, if they are still keen on Barker, will have to pay what the arbitration panel decides he is worth, Barker will get to ride for the club he likes, and Coventry will get some recompense for their asset. What a shame this all couldn't have been avoided.

ITEM: The Barker decision would also seem to affect the other ongoing transfer disputes, all involving Peterborough, who are fast becoming the Elite League's Least Wanted, an awkward carbuncle on an already ugly hide. Peterborough have denied 2013 team places to Niels-Kristian Iversen. Hans Andersen, Troy Batchelor, and Kenneth Bjerre under the auspices of keeping their options open.

It's an open secret that Peterborough want to use Bjerre as their number one for next season, but they are wary of how well he will recover from his broken leg. At least this is the story they are peddling to the public - you'll forgive me if I don't accept it as the gospel truth. Iversen wants to ride for King's Lynn, who have built their side around him as number one, and Andersen and Batchelor seem keen to return to Swindon, where they won the league last season. The Panthers have put the blockers on the moves, yet the riders claim they have had no contact from their parent club, and would appreciate knowing, one way or another, which way their destiny lies. Even Bjerre seems to be in the dark, the most innocent victim of this gamesmanship.

Iversen, like Barker, has spent the past two years on loan at another club - the same club who want to use him for a third season. If Barker can be considered to have asked for a transfer - which triggered the MC decision - Iversen's declaration that he will ride only for the Stars should also be taken as a transfer request, and the process outlined above initiated.

The cases of Andersen and Batchelor are not so straightforward, with them having ridden for the Panthers in 2011, before spending 2012 on loan at Swindon. Batchelor has been quite vocal about his feelings - predominantly negative - for the Panthers, whilst Andersen, ever the politician, is keeping his options open. Swindon, for their part, seem to have built their side with both men in it, and see the Panthers' gambit as nothing more than a silly game.

If the BSPA want to protect the asset system they have to take action. At present, too few clubs hold too many aces, and the smaller clubs are at their mercy. As long as these smaller clubs acquiesce, everything is fine. But, as we've seen, they're starting to get uppity, and demand things they don't have, or the bigger clubs are holding them to ransom. This cannot allowed to continue. A redistribution of riders' registrations is not only desirable, it's essential if these issues aren't going to destroy what value clubs currently place on their assets. Moving on Iversen, Andersen, and Batchelor - as well as Barker - would be a good start.

* Of the Top 20 riders on the BSPA's list, SIX are owned by Peterborough. The rest of the list is as follows: Poole 5, Wolves 3, Coventry 2, and Swindon, King's Lynn, Birmingham and Eastbourne have 1 each. Belle Vue's highest asset is #22, Charlie Gjedde, while Lakeside's Adam Shields is only #31 on the list.

ITEM: The UEM - the European Motorcycle Union (soon to re-branded FIM-Europe) - are, to use a football analogy, speedway's UEFA to the FIM's FIFA. Primarily tasked with running European competitions in the various disciplines, their track sport arm has organised a European Speedway Championship since 1978, and a junior equivalent since 1998. Whilst obviously not at the level of FIM competition, the championships attract a good quality field, and past winners of the senior title include Tommy Knudsen, Krzystzof Kasprzak, and Matej Zagar. 

British speedway riders have rarely troubled the trophy makers, although Marvyn Cox and gary Havelock both won the title in the 1980s, and the ACU/SCB have lately turned away from UEM competitions, to the point where - in 2013 - there will be no British representation at all. This is both understandable, with the cost of competing across Europe prohibitive to all but our top riders who already find their schedules jam-packed, and puzzling, because at the slightly lower level of competition British riders may make the impact they seem unable to make on the Grand Prix series.

Our lack of serious participation in UEM competitions will be markedly more apparent in 2013 than in previous years because the UEM have signed a deal with Eurosport to carry their four speedway competitions - they also run a pairs' and junior team championship - live across Europe, hopefully including Eurosport UK. With the SGP series struggling to find a broadcaster in the UK, the UEM series could replace it as the premier competition on our screens, and to have no British participants seems unwise.

Last year's title was won by Ales Dryml, who proved that it is possible to combine racing in the Elite League, and his native Czech Republic, with a tilt at the title, so perhaps in 2014 we may see the likes of King, Kennet, and Bridger on our screens, mixing it with the nearlymen of continental Europe.

ITEM: In what must seem like a very Ben Barker-heavy issue of Speeding Motorcycles, he was also the first name to be announced for the 2013 Speedway Riders' Benevolent Fund benefit meeting at Berwick in March. Barker won the 2012 meeting, at Birmingham's Perry Barr raceway, and is the only man to have ridden in every edition of the charity event, so it's fitting that he should be the first name on the racecard come March.

The Ben Fund meeting has been granted to Berwick because of their sterling work in raising funds for the cause - to provide assistance to injured and retired ex-speedway riders, and hopefully a big crowd will make their way to Shielfield Park on Saturday March 9th.

I attended the Birmingham meeting and had a great time, with some dedicated riders giving their all for nothing more than a pat on the back. Usually, I'm not a believer in the school of thought that says these riders are doing it for our entertainment - they get paid (quite well, some of them) after all, but this is one of the rare occasions when they do. Also, the turnstiles are manned by referees, so if you delay handing over your money you may get the chance to ask Dan Holt just what he was thinking not excluding Dave North at Ipswich in July, or trade sartorial tips with Christina Turnbull.

If you can't make the long haul to England's furthest outpost (take that, Scots!), then please make sure you give a hefty donation next time the buckets are passed round at your track, or send a cheque to SRBF, c/o ACU House, Wood Street, Rugby, CV21 2YX. You know it makes sense.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Do The Right Thing!

ITEM: So the asset system in its current form looks under threat once more, with Birmingham looking to force the transfer of Ben Barker from Coventry. Barker has ridden, on loan, for the Brummies for the past two seasons. The rules used to say that two seasons was the limit for a loan period, but I'm not sure that counts anymore. And even if it did, what are the BSPA's rules but to be ignored?

Anyway, the Brummies want Barker again, and Coventry want Barker, and Coventry - as the club who own his registration - should have the upper hand. Except that Ben Barker, after seemingly agreeing terms with Mick Horton to ride for Coventry in 2013, decided that he now wants to ride for Birmingham. This is a blow to Coventry's team plans, but not unsurmountable, and Barker's off-track activities have left him with few fans at Brandon in any case.

Coventry have refused Birmingham permission to talk to Barker. This may have been the case from the beginninng, or it may have been a recent development. Regardless, as it stands, Birmingham cannot offer Barker a team place for 2013. The next step should be that Barker submits a transfer request, although I would argue that writing to the BSPA and giving ill-advised interviews to the Birmingham press and Speedway Star have done that for him. In which case, the clubs have to agree a fee. If a fee cannot be agreed, the decision goes to a tribunal, a fee is set, and the transfer is completed. All very simple.

Except for one thing - the feeling coming out of Birmingham, and I will stand corrected if I am reading it wrong - is that they cannot afford a transfer fee, and want Barker for another year on the cheap, and are using the rider to get just that. But that's not how it works. If Barker does not want to ride for Coventry, then he does not ride for anyone without Coventry's permission or a transfer fee being paid. In a sport where making the play-offs is worth money, why should Coventry give their rivals an advantage they don't want to concede. It would be madness to do so.

Let's not forget that Mick Horton's bullishness has already handed Birmingham a fantastic number one in Chris Harris, and that - if they play ball - they also stand to get the use of Josh Auty for a season. But, no, the games continue, the Pravda-lite propaganda spews forth, and nothing gets sorted.

Ben Barker and Josh Auty are young British riders. I'd love them to have every opportunity to progress in the sport, even if that isn't with my club, who previously have been very good at just that sort of thing. The ball would seem to be in Birmingham's court - pay up or pipe down.

ITEM: Talking of young British riders, it's good to see that opportunities for riders who've come through the National League are up this year on last year. Joe Jacobs, Adam Ellis, Stefan Nielsen, and Jake Knight have secured places so far, with Ben Reade expected to be added to to the list at Plymouth. Add that to Lewis Blackbird and Ashley Morris, who found team spots halfway through last season, and the rest of the recent crop (the Worrals, Birks, Irving, Newman, etc) and things look to be picking up.

Clubs could do more, of course, and I'm specifically looking at Berwick, Redcar, and Edinburgh here. Plymouth would make the list, too, but their late start earns them a reprieve. Until it is mandatory to include young british riders there are always going to be holdouts, however, and it's disappointing nothing was done at the AGM, but the lambs obviously led the lions on that one.

Things are also looking better in the Elite League, with the percentage of team places going to British riders increasing on last season. Again, it's not enough, but I do get the feeling that the Elite League are keener on legislating for the use of young Brits than their Premier League counterparts. Unfortunately, though, this is one situation where it has to come from the bottom up - hopefully the academy at Lakeside, the training tracks at Northside, Scunthorpe, Iwade, and Lydd, and the various regional Development Leagues will help this come to pass.

Until then, get behind the British lads and, if you can, throw a bit of money their way in sponsorship. A little goes a long way when you're just starting out and you never know what it might achieve.

ITEM: So it's Coventry Storm, then. The name and logo for Coventry's freshman year in the National League had been a closely-guarded secret, probably because they hadn't thought of one, but last week Blayne Scroggins sprang into action and the Storm it is!

Within minutes of the name and logo being released, I found where they'd "borrowed" it from - a high school in Minnesota. This was disingenuous of me, but the reason I went looking is because it seems to be the done thing in speedway, as the following examples show:

Georgia Tech University / Coventry "Bees"
Los Angeles / King's Lynn Stars

Wests / Sheffield Tigers

Still, it's a fair name, and a good logo, and at least they stayed away from using Wasps, or Hornets, or any other "almost the same but slightly different" insect name. Maybe "Swarm" would have been better, but it would have reminded people of a bad Michael Caine movie, and nobody wants that.

I'm looking forward to seeing the National League boys next season, perhaps as much as the Elite League team as it stands. I hope I won't be alone.

ITEM: The 2013 team line-ups for the Polish EkstraLiga were released this week, and were salivated over by some British fans, all too eager to point out how much better their league is than ours.

This is a common theme, of course, but it ignores the realities that the sport facesi n the UK, and the fairytale world they seem to operate in in Poland, where a cavalier attitude towards paying tax and the absolute compliance of the local authorities can be taken for granted. Even so, some riders are owed huge sums - the grass may be greener on the other side, but you still have to mow it.

But you know what? I looked at their teams, and despite being envious of their dedication to using homegrown talent, I saw nothing that attracted me, or that would worry me if I were competing with them. With the possible exceptions of Torun and Gniezno, some sense of financial (and therefore team-strength) reality looks to be biting, and most teams wouldn't look out of place in the Elite League. Indeed, over two legs, I might even fancy some of our sides against theirs!

It's time we stopped knocking what we have. Yes, the people who run the sport in the UK are sometimes not what we would like, and they make stupid decisions that seem baffling to sensible outsiders. But as a product, the Elite League can be speedway at its finest. It can also be horribly dull, but show me a speedway meeting that doesn't have that potential!

It seems strange that, after six months on pointing out all the little (and some not so little!) problems we have in our sport, that I should find myself being so positive about young Brits, Coventry's NL prospects, and British speedway as a whole - I guess it really is Christmas!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Niels, Edward, Facundo & Nathan

ITEM: Peterborough are playing a very dangerous game. In denying Niels-Kristian Iversen a third season at King's Lynn, they risk bringing down the whole house of cards that is the asset system in British speedway.

Speedway riders in this country do not have contracts in the same way other sportsmen are signed to clubs. Riders are self-employed contractors, no different to you or I employing a decorator to paint our houses. Imagine, though, that as soon as he finished painting your house, you were able to demand a fee from next door for letting him paint their house, too. And every house he painted after that. Ridiculous.

But that's how it works in speedway. For nothing other than a season's employment - and not even that in a lot of cases! - a club can control the future destiny of a rider they are no longer paying. It's a system that was struck down in football two decades ago, and only continues in speedway through the continued compliance of British clubs and their assets.

Iversen ended up at King's Lynn because he was surplus to requirements at Peterborough. He returned to the Norfolk Arena again last year, once more not needed by his parent club. And this season? I don't believe Peterborough had any intention of using him again, but he had a good season in 2012 and his "value" has rocketed.

King's Lynn are keen to continue to loan Iversen, and with loan fees tied to a rider's average, the fee would have increased for 2013. Peterborough are playing hard ball, reporting the Stars for an illegal approach - they did the same last year when Swindon, given permission by the Panthers' team manager, signed Troy Batchelor, who'd already been left out of Peterborough's 1-7.

It's not clear what the Panthers actually want. Do they want to keep Iversen for themselves for the 2013 season, in which case they're shit out of luck because he's declared it's the Stars or nothing? Or do they want a full transfer fee, which King's Lynn are unwilling to pay? Precedent was set last season, when Poole were allowed to rob Swindon of a useful asset, using Miedzinski on loan until his false average value had been destroyed, and if the decision on Iversen is any different there should be wiggle room for appeal.

It's extremely risky for all clubs, though (well, except Belle Vue, who have nothing of value), because all it takes is one disgruntled rider to cry "restraint of trade!" and the whole asset system will crumble like Wolves' title challenge in early April.

Having paid money to Coventry to make Rory Schlein an asset, King's Lynn won't be keen to rock the boat, but someone will, and soon. Who will be speedway's Bosman?

ITEM: Edward Kennett signed for Swindon this week, and there was a mixed response from both Robins' and Bees' fans.

Blunsdon regulars are trusting of their management's judgment, and rightfully so - the return of Alun Rossiter to the club having earned them their first championship in almost half a century. If Rosco and Gary Patchett think Kennett is worth signing, then who are Swindon fans to doubt them?

There are nay-sayers, though, and they mostly fall into two camps - those concerned at Kennett's alarming lack of form last season, and those who still see him as a cheat, having been caught using a modified silencer in the middle of the 2011 season.

The former group can be justifiably concerned - Kennett's average dropped severely last term, although mitigating circumstances can be argued throughout. The latter are ridiculous - Kennett's major crime was getting caught, stitched-up by someone he considered a friend, and he was by far and away not the only one running on a dodgy silencer. In fact, several of those who still call him a cheat eulogise another of the rule-breakers. Double standards abound in speedway, as in life.

Coventry fans, too, are divided, with some glad to see the back of a rider who clearly didn't give his all on some occasions last season, and others frustrated that the Bees are giving away an asset on a artificially low average.

It's no secret that I had my issues with Kennett last season, coming to a head when rumours of him deliberately dropping his average surfaced at the same time as a bizarre performance at Wolverhampton, a track he loves, when to the untrained eye it looked for all the world like he was dropping points from scoring positions when under no threat.

I half-jokingly put him on "#KennettWatch", setting him a target of 7 points per meeting, and but for a shocking display at Peterborough where he recorded four zeroes, he scored much better from that point, eventually averaging 6.60 (7.30 with bonus points) after the Wolves debacle - as opposed to 5.93 before it - and probably would have made his target if Belle Vue weren't a shambles of a club.

I'm pretty sure Edward Kennett couldn't give a flying fig what I think of him, or any targets I set him, but I was pleased with what I saw after Monmore Green, a rider who, while perhaps not happy with his work, seemed to knuckle down and get on with it. I'm sure the rumours of average-dropping were just that, maybe blown out of proportion from half-heard intentions to double-up in 2013.

If you'd have said to me back in September that I'd be sad Kennett isn't returning to Brandon next year I'd have laughed at you. And then laughed again. But there are three riders from last year's Bees' side who are bound to increase their averages by some way in 2013, and Kennett is one of them. On a little over six points he's a steal, and Swindon have robbed us.

So good luck Eddy, I hope you're happier next year, that a rider you grew up admiring doesn't die, and that the man who brought you to Swindon isn't sacked by text message halfway through the season. Without those distractions, it'll be a 7-point plus year, at least. With or without #KennettWatch.

ITEM: They must like Argentineans up in Sheffield. The city's oldest league club, United, once almost signed a teenaged Diego Maradona, and Emiliano Sanchez has been a fixture of the Tigers side for the last few seasons. Now they've added to their Patagonian compliment by signing hotly-tipped youngster Facundo Albin for the 2013 season.

Albin, who has been a top scorer in his native land since he was old enough to ride with the big boys, was all set to sign for Berwick until Sebastian Alden ruled himself out of Premier League speedway next season, necessitating a re-shuffle in their planned 1-7, with Albin the odd man out.

Dick Barrie, who winters in South America, didn't hesitate to get Albin fixed up at Sheffield, where he'll come in on a 5.00 average.

I'm not sure how I feel about the move. On the one hand, Albin is taking a spot that could be filled by a British youngster, a fact made worse by the Tigers also tracking 24-yr old Australian novice Damian Koppe, also on a 5.00 average. There again, the Owlerton outfit have already signed three British riders, giving a first Premier League chance to Jake Knight, and may make it four with the returning Richard Hall.

What Sheffield do have is marketing gold. A young Argentinean, untested on European tracks, embarking on a big adventure, his tyre tracks following in the footsteps of Leo Messi... It's all there for Neil Machin and Dave Hoggart to sell to the press and the public. With local boy made good Simon Stead returning home, the Tigers should have little trouble attracting the media and new fans along on Thursday evenings.

So while Albin's signing may be no good for British speedway riders, it could be good for British speedway as a whole, which in the long run should be good for British speedway riders! The opportunity is there - let's hope Sheffield make the most of it.

ITEM: I enjoyed watching Nathan Greaves ride at Brandon last season, watching him learn to negotiate the bends ever faster and with more style the more laps he put in. He became "our" Nathan, sure to be a Bee one day, and when Mick Horton announced that Coventry were running in the National League in 2013, it was surely only a matter of time before he signed.

So it was some surprise that I got a text telling me he'd signed for Dudley, "stolen" from under our noses, the dirty rotters!

Greaves will not become an asset of the Heathens because he is under-16. Even if he wanted to, the rules simply do not allow it. The Coventry side is being built from assets of the club (or with riders acquired as assets), with a view to them riding for the senior side down the line.

Could it be that Nathan and his advisors were faced with a choice between Dudley offering a team place with no strings attached and a Coventry side eager to get him on board, perhaps even trying some kind of pre-contract agreement? Or did Dudley, wealthy by NL standards, and with good sponsors, offer a better financial package than Coventry were willing to match?

We'll probably never know. If Coventry are determined to make their investment pay off, it makes sense to get everyone signed and sealed, even if the rules frown on it. However, it may put pressure on a lad looking to the future - Greaves has the best of both worlds at present: a good season in the NL and he can name his price come his 16th birthday.

And if Dudley can offer a good package isn't that a reward for their hard work and professionalism, even if it does put their rivals at a disadvantage?

My only hope is that Nathan Greaves gets on with the racing, and doesn't let the politics of speedway, and bad advice from "adults" (because there's enough of that at that level) spoil what should be a good career in speedway.

We have precious few precocious talents coming through, let's not ruin this one, eh?

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Pretenders, Liars, Kentishmen & Traitors

ITEM: So I went and had a go at that speedway thing...

A couple of months ago I foolishly put, as my Facebook status, that I'd never ridden a motorbike before but I was pretty sure I could ride speedway. The statement says more about the way I approach life than my actual idea of how easy riding speedway is, but some bright spark decided to take me up on the offer, and so I – along with some top internet celebrities – made the long drive up to Scunthorpe last Sunday for one of their training days.

I'd never been to Scunthorpe before, though I'd heard nothing but good things about the set-up there, and my visit did nothing to dispel them. The stadium, such as it is, is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by industry and the detritus of industry, and is not what you could ever call pretty. But regular readers will know that that's far from a priority for me – I'm interested in a racing track, a toilet that will only slightly kill me, and somewhere to stand if it rains. Scunthorpe has all that, and more, so I have absolutely no complaints. There is room to expand, and no neighbours to annoy, so I'd imagine that – as the club grows – the Eddie Wright Raceway will develop.

The training days, held on the small training track a stone's throw from the main speedway, are overseen by Wayne Carter and his dad. In his riding days Wayne was aggressive and combative, and as a fan very easy to take a dislike to. Maybe he's chilled out a little, but the Wayne Carter who runs the speedway training at Scunthorpe is a diamond – patient, light-hearted, and not averse to laughing at you when you make a tit of yourself. As almost total novices (although most of our group had done a similar day before), the training consisted of how to use the throttle and clutch. And that's it. I'm not sure what I was expecting, to be honest – being shown how to broadslide it into the corner? It would have been interesting, but way above our ability level, perhaps, and certainly not on that track.

Ah, yes, the track. The overnight frost had thawed, and the icy hardness turned to muddy goop, making the track slippy and slidey after a couple of hours, and playing havoc with the bikes. Those who had been before said that, on a better day, with more bikes operational, the action was thicker and faster, with more rides and more bikes on the track at once. I can't blame Wayne or Scunthorpe for the conditions, and perhaps I benefited more from not having to avoid to many people as I hurtled around the track (probably at speeds of up to 10mph!), but you can't help but wonder what a few more laps might have achieved.

As it was, with the mini-track being declared unfit in mid-afternoon, we were given the opportunity to have a go on the main circuit, which – having been expertly opining that I could do with some longer straights all afternoon – came as a bit of a “put up or shut up” moment. A couple of our group decided not to have a go, perhaps wisely, but most of us did, and recorded 4-lap times of between 100 and 120 seconds. That's still around 30mph on a bike with no brakes, and was a thrill I'd love to repeat. It also meant that Scunthorpe press officer Rob Peasley, after an afternoon of testing Wayne Carter's patience, finally did a full lap without falling off or grasstracking on the centre green. He did hit the air fence, though.

The smiles on the faces of our group – which included CleanCut Sports commentator Martin Coleman, the aforementioned Rob Peasley, BSF-glitterati Shawn “SCB” Brown and Chris “21st Century Heathen” Jones, and Speedway Updater extraordinaire Alan “Silver Bee” Bates, amongst others – told the story of the day: a massive amount of fun. We're already making plans to go back in the spring, when the weather is better, and test Wayne Carter's nerve by trying to slide it round the small track, possibly through the fence. You should come, too.

As a postscript, as we left Scunthorpe promoter Rob Godfrey was taking to the track in a piece of heavy machinery, undertaking some work which looked like he wouldn't get finished until well into the evening. On a Sunday. In December. That's probably why his club is going places.

ITEM: Why do speedway promoters lie? You may as well ask why the sky is blue, except there's an answer to that, and one which can be tested by science. My original question? Our top boffins are working on it, but none of them are confident they'll come up with anything more than “because.”

I've written before about the dichotomy between the modern world, where mobile 'phones and the internet can mean everything is instantaneous and open, and the world of the BSPA, where shadowy figures slice up the sport in smoke-filled rooms, seemingly convinced that what they say and do will forever be hidden, other than the parts they deign to bottle-feed to the pliant press.

This tactic is made more ridiculous by those they often try to “spin” about having their own access to social media. So while Plymouth's Mike Bowden was telling the world that Nicki Glanz's absence from the team was down to injury this summer, the rider himself took to Twitter to explain that, actually, he was fit but owed money and unwilling to ride until it was paid. Only the BSPA, who continued to grant Plymouth a facility for Glanz, seemed to believe Bowden's story.

Similarly this week, Chris Harris signed for Birmingham, and gave an interview to the SpeedwayGP website explaining why he'd left Coventry, a view at odds with the official line being pedalled by Bees' promoter Mick Horton over the past few weeks. Harris said he'd asked for the same pay as last season but understood there may have to be room for negotiation. Horton, according to Harris, was unwilling to negotiate, despite telling fans in the press and on a radio broadcast fans' forum that Harris remained in his plans. He further undermined that position by claiming, in the local paper, that Harris hadn't been in his plans for some time.

Of course, riders can have their own reasons for briefing against those they're in dispute with, and there are always two sides to every story. But when the promoters' story is weakened by their inability to stick to the same story, there's always going to be a problem. The same is true when the official line is at odds with the facts – one Elite League promoter claimed an asset was still in his plans despite the rider having been transferred, on a full sale, to an EL rival weeks before.

This desperate spin belongs in a past era. The fans want and deserve honesty. If you asking them to part with their, increasingly hard to come by, cash, week after week, you need to treat them as intelligent adults. A quick glance at the British Speedway Forum reveals that's not always accurate, but it's best to err on the side of maturity.

Speedway is often derided as being an old man's sport, with the terraces full of pensioners in deckchairs, swigging from thermos flasks. Perhaps that's because the promoters still want it to be the 1950s? Time to smarten up and 'fess up, as the kids say.

ITEM: Speedway returns to Kent in 2013, and at a completely new venue. Sittingbourne's greyhound stadium will stage National league speedway on Monday nights, at the slightly unusual start time of 6.30pm, as a precursor to hopefully joining the Premier League in the near future.

The club, which will be known as Kent rather than Sittingbourne (in deference to the dormant former Conference League club down the road at Iwade), will be run with assistance from Len Silver, who has decided not to enter a team from Rye House into the NL in 2013.

Kent has always been a hotbed of speedway talent, though not so much in recent years, and as well as Iwade also boasts an open training track at Lydd, as well as a solid grasstrack scene. With a path opening up for talent to progress in that corner of the country, you'd hope it wouldn't be too long before another Mark Loram or even a Barry Thomas emerges and develops. God knows we could do with one.

ITEM: Speaking of which, one of the big talking points prior to the BSPA AGM was how to develop young British talent, and give them the league racing opportunities so sorely lacking in recent years. So much so that, in the pre-AGM issue of the Speedway Star, just about every promoter cited it as a priority. So, while the “2 from 20” and reassessment of foreign talent came as a bolt out of the blue – because as fans we're children who can't be trusted to give our opinion on matters like that before they're announced as hard and fast rules – you'd have expected their announcement to have been accompanied by a structured approach towards ensuring clubs gave young Brits an opportunity. Of course, knowing how this story goes by now, you'll not be surprised to find there was nothing.

No doubt the brains trust at the BSPA will hide behind EU legislation, which doesn't seem to hinder fellow EU-members Sweden, Poland, and Denmark in making their own regulations to keep team places for their own youngsters (and, besides, would make our Brits-only National League illegal, too), but the simple truth is – for some odd reason – they'd rather employ a dodgy foreigner instead of giving a British youngster a go.

How else do you explain the continued employment in this country of the likes of Jari Makinen, Simon Nielsen, Alex Edberg, and Micky Dyer? All averaging less than five points a meeting in the Premier League, and all potentially stealing a spot that a British rider could fill. A look at the Berwick and Redcar teams tells the story – journeyman foreigners and European & Australian riders filling spots that could otherwise go to local heroes.

I believe there is a desire in the Elite League to actually do something towards bringing on the young lads – witness Ashley Birks at Swindon, and Kyle Howarth at Poole (Poole, FFS!) - but they can't do it without a structured and compulsory system of bringing the lads through from the development leagues to the top. The Premier League has to start playing its part – and that's not to deride the likes of Rye House, Scunthorpe, and Newcastle, who have named British riders in four of their team slots thus far – or we'll be talking about this for years to come.