COMMISSION CONSIDER REPORT – posted 16 April 2013
British Cycling's Cycle Speedway Commission is considering the future of elite league cycle speedway after receiving Ian Grange's final report on the review of top tier racing.
Although the review has not been made public, it is expected to show little change from the proposals outlined by Grange at the national development conference at Birmingham in January.
However, the report is likely to be at variance with the views of Commission which has openly endorsed its preference for two top divisions - the Elite League and the Premier League with six teams in each.
The report argues that the sport cannot sustain two national leagues at present, author Grange suggesting that there are insufficient quality riders to make up two divisions and corresponding Combination leagues and that expansion to two leagues at present could have a detrimental effect on regional racing. However expansion to two tiers would not be ruled out in the future. In the interim it is suggested that the present Elite League could be expanded from the present six teams to eight in the near future, perhaps as early as 2014.
The report also reflects discussion at the national development conference, led primarily by four-times British champion Lee Aris, about the impact of secondary registrations on regional racing. It’s believed the report advocates the introduction of an Elite League rider’s licence which would obviate the need for secondary registrations in their present format. It’s envisaged that secondary registrations would only be applicable to regional racing, administered by the regions themselves.
In order to accommodate those clubs outside the Elite League who would like additional team fixtures, Grange is advocating the introduction of what is called the ‘Club Matching Service’. Clubs would enter their requirements on an online database (junior matches, women’s events, four-a-sides etc) and these would be married up with other clubs, so providing tailor-made inter-club competitions.
One significant change is the idea of replacing the Combination League with a Development League. After receiving feedback from the conference and clubs, it is widely rumoured that Grange has dropped this proposal from the final report. Instead he is advocating introducing some sort of rider control that would bar the sport's top riders from competing at Combination level.
Proposals to hold an annual Elite League Club Forum has been widely welcomed. It will give club’s the opportunity to comment on and influence the management process although British Cycling has already pointed out that this will be an advisory as opposed to a decision-making forum. It is expected the first forum will take place later in the year, probably in September or October.
The report will challenge some Commissioner's long established views on the future of top tier racing including the suggestion in some quarters that Elite League racing should predominantly take place on Saturday evenings and that a second tier should be introduced regardless, even if it means just four teams contesting the Premier League.
British Cycling is expected to publish the full report in due course together with its response.
FURTHER CHANGES TO NATIONAL QUALIFIERS – posted 22 January 2013
Competitions are always high on conference agendas and this year’s was no exception.
Ian Brown outlined the Commission’s competition plans for 2013, providing supplementary information about some of the national competitions. This year’s calendar will be more structured with the finals weekend and team final proving a fitting finale to the season. He also hinted that the Commission was in discussions with a third party to promote the indoor championships in December.
For third year running there will be a change in the way riders qualify for the British individual final. After utilising the traditional two semi-finals format with eight riders progressing to the final, last year the Commission surprisingly opted for three qualifying rounds with five or six riders going on to contest Monday’s final.
This proved unpopular with many riders, so now administrators have introduced a third qualifying mechanism which will see an, as yet, undisclosed number of riders qualifying on Saturday and the remainder going into Sunday’s repechage for the final qualifying places.
Some delegates suggested that the under-16, women’s and open final should all be staged on the same day, Bank Holiday Monday. Others advocated returning the under-16 final to Monday, reverting the women’s final to the body of the weekend.
The ill-fated Women’s League will be replaced by a pairs league, similar to a squash league with competitors divided into three capability groups with promotion and relegation. There will be four rounds, one in each region, together with a supporting individual grand prix. There will also be a one-off inter-regional event, each region racing against one another.
CLUB MANAGEMENT TOOL DEMONSTRATED – posted 22 January 2013
British Cycling’s Club Support Officer Ben Fella (pictured above) presented an interesting talk on BC’s latest initiative, the Club Management Tool and Website Tool Kit.
Before doing so, two short British Cycling videos were shown “Why Join a Club?” and Go-Ride – British Cycling’s Development Programme”, the latter featuring Neil Howarth extolling the virtues of cycle speedway and the safe environment it offers. There were also interviews with parents.
Developed with the help of existing cycling clubs, the Club Management Tool is free to all affiliated clubs. Through an online dashboard, clubs will have access to a public profile on the British Cycling website, subscription collection, newsletters, free website design and hosting, and an interactive club calendar enabling riders to book onto club activities.
Fella methodically walked through the various options, demonstrating the systems online capabilities. Full instructions and support on how to use the tool is also offered by British Cycling.
For further information click on
75 ACTIVE REFEREES - posted 22 January 2013
Referees’ coordinator Mike Hack reported that cycle speedway has a 136 registered referees of which 75 are active referees, so on paper at least, it appears that cycle speedway is well served for race officials. However referee abuse is clearly still a problem. Determined to tackle the issue, the Commission is looking to improve rider education around rules, even advocating that a Rule of the Week column could be published in Spokesman, an initiative the editorial team would happily support.
Hack insisted that referees are not ‘card happy’. Only three yellow and six red cards were issued in 2012.
Club management had a key role in improving relationship with referees and could play their part by taking more responsibility for rider behavior and accepting referee’s decisions.
Referees were encouraged to support the Referees conference to be held at the Hilton Hotel, Leicester on Sunday 17 February (contact Paul West at BC headquarters for more details)
MISCELLANY – posted 22 January 2013
Several other matters were touched on. In recent years the British Youth and Junior League had benefitted from a £4,000 a year sponsorship deal with Wosskow Brown Solicitors, however that agreement ends this year. In order to maintain a suitable level of prizes, riders would be charged an entry fee for competing in the national rounds.
Ian Brown reported, somewhat vaguely, that the Commission had asked an undisclosed person (widely expected to be former rider Vic Haines), to try to gain sponsorship for the Elite and BYJL.
POSITIVE CONFERENCE PLANS FOR THE FUTURE – posted 21 January 2013
Despite appalling weather conditions, over 40 delegates attended the national cycle speedway development conference at Alexander Stadium, Birmingham on Sunday.
Representatives discussed a wide range of subjects from the Elite League to secondary registrations, Go-Ride initiatives to website tool kits, from women’s racing to referee abuse.
British Cycling Board member Richard Kennedy, standing in for newly appointed Cycle Speedway Commission chairman Tony Barry who is holidaying in America, welcomed delegates before handing over to Ian Brown who conducted most of the business during a positive five hour meeting.
In keeping with the conference format, although there was much encouraging debate, no positive decisions were made. Instead the main conclusions will be drawn together by the Cycle Speedway Commission and discussed further at its meeting on 2 March.
In the next few days, we will be taking a closer look at the issues facing cycle speedway by examining the conference debates more closely, kicking off with the review of top tier racing. Keep clicking spokesman-online. First for cycle speedway.
Editor’s Note – Did you attend yesterday’s conference? How do you think it went? Is cycle speedway on the right track? Where do we go from here? Please let us know your views and we’ll share them with other Spokesman readers.
MAJOR SHAKE-UP OF TOP TIER RACING PLANNED – posted 21 January 2013
Ian Grange presents his proposals to a packed audience at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham
The eagerly awaited review of top tier racing was finally unfurled at yesterday’s cycle speedway development conference at Birmingham.
The report’s author, Ian Grange, covered a wide spectrum of carefully considered issues, each selectively consulted on prior to finalising the report and making his presentation.
The main conclusions stemming from the comprehensive and well argued report were two fold. Firstly that the sport could not at present support the Commission’s vision of two six-team national leagues and secondly that all clubs must be encouraged to recruit riders, and develop their own teams.
Sustainabilty the Common Thread
The word “sustainability” was the common thread running through the presentation, Grange returning to it several times. He cited the dangers of ‘importing’ riders, from both home and abroad, arguing that clubs must develop and nurture its own talent.
Leaning on well researched statistics, Grange felt a two tier national league was not realistic at this stage but with careful planning could be developed in future years, predicting 2017 as the optimum date for a two six-team divisions to be fully operational.
“We not have the rider numbers currently to support the proposed Elite and Premier League structure of ten teams or more” he told the attentive audience. “Only 55 riders raced in six Elite matches or more in 2012. That represents just 7.86 riders per team. Interestingly only 22% of those 55 riders were developed from the Combination league over the period 2010-2012” he added.
Returning to the theme of Elite League stability, Grange used Leicester as an example of what can happen if clubs don’t develop their own riders.
“As long as I have been involved in the sport, Leicester have always been in the top tier. It’s sad to see such a great club riding in regional league racing. That shouldn’t be allowed to happen” insisted Grange.
“Clubs must be encouraged to recruit riders, and develop their own teams. We need a culture change from the current short-sighted win in an instant mentality. This is imperative to ensure we have a sport for future years to come. Nothing can be done to physically stop super teams being built, but we can work to change clubs mentalities towards their development and the way they recruit riders” said Grange with true conviction.
“Anything we do to change the Elite League must be positive towards regional league racing, not detract from the regional structure.”
Potential to Develop
Not making specific reference to any clubs, Grange felt there was potential to develop a two tier national league over a period of time. Setting out a detailed agenda, it was suggested that an eight team national league would be viable as early as 2014, extending to two leagues of five teams in 2016 and two six team leagues in the following year.
Grange also touched on the concept of Elite weekends and even an Elite Best Pairs event.
Encouraging better fixture scheduling, Grange suggested “We could have weekends of Elite League racing planned to support those with the biggest mileage commitment, for example Poole v Ipswich Saturday night, Poole v Sheffield Sunday, Horspath v Sheffield Saturday night, Horspath v Ipswich Sunday. This would help to free up potential weekends that could be utilised for regional league racing” he said.
“The idea of an Elite League Best Pairs stemmed from the riders” explained Grange. “We could look to launch event at the start of the 2014 season but it must be supported by all Elite League clubs” he added.
Development League Planned
Then advocating perhaps the biggest change, Grange launched his plans for revamping the troubled Combination League with the simple question “What’s the purpose of the Combination League
What was meant a serious rhetorical question, brought a chuckle from the otherwise silent audience when one delegate quipped “A joke!” Never could a point be more aptly or succinctly made.
Coming back to the point of sustainability and clubs developing their own talent Grange convincingly argued that the Combination League should be replaced with a Development League. The new league would be restricted to under-18s and women only. No senior riders would be allowed to compete although one veteran rider would be allowed per team “to mentor and encourage the other riders.”
While encouraging new ideas and initiatives, Grange felt the newly introduced number 9 and 10 provision was a good one but suggested that the 3,2,1 rule should be scrapped “as this negates from the ability to utilise the number 9 and 10” he added.
Grange had consulted widely before unveiling his plans. This theme of continued consultation and dialogue was clearly at the forefront of his mind when he suggested setting up an Elite League managers’ forum, to be chaired by Elite League manager, to discuss issues and ongoing development.
Entry Criteria Should be Revised
Grange also advocated that the points-based criteria for Elite League entry should be revised.
“We need to have a look at the application criteria, and realign it with a real emphasis on club development; recruitment of riders; club structure; to support an increase in participation. Fundamentally Elite League clubs must be sustainable. For the first time clubs will be asked to submit a ten rider squad for the following season so that rider strength in both the first team and development league becomes a priority for the first time. Clubs must have their own coaches. All clubs must also have Go Ride status, with a vision of Club Mark by 2015” he explained
Moving on the topical subject of television coverage “It is a must to keep this piece of work going” said Grange.
“Can we look to work with British Cycling to see them support the project; promote the benefits of doing cycle speedway, joining a safe and fun environment. Maybe advertise the club finder as the Sky programmes close” he questioned.
Leaving no stone unturned in his comprehensive review of top tier racing, Grange then moved on to referees.
“We must look to increase the number of referees and look to have referees officiating in matches outside of their home region. We need more education for riders around cycle speedway rules.”
Need to Work More Closely with British Cycling
On marketing and promotion Grange said “We must encourage British Cycling to promote all EL fixtures via their Twitter and Facebook accounts. There could be a designated section on BC website for the Elite League with pieces about each club, venue details, rider profiles, club history, details of club nights and Come and Try It nights, that sort of thing. Starting this season we could have pre-match previews and reports produced for BC website and Spokesman and produce official rider stats, averages, number of wins, exclusions etc. Riders love that sort of thing” explained Grange.
Finally, after a polished and professional presentation, Grange returned again to sustainability and the importance of what he called the cycle speedway participant development model (player pathway), charting a rider’s progress from club night fun, through local league and regional racing, the BYJL, the Development League, the Premier and Elite Leagues and ultimately international competition.
Following the presentation, there was a question and answer session with very few dissenting voices. One delegate emphasised that the Combination should be just that, a combination of ages and abilities while another asked where his second string riders, those not good enough for the Elite League, should race.
As a presentation it was a tour de force, full of ideas punctuated with a sprinkling of tact and diplomacy. Without being too gushing it was statesmanlike, even inspirational. Grange’s commitment and enthusiasm was certainly evident, a quality that seemed to percolate to what can sometimes been seen as a conservative audience. As they trudged to their cars through the ever deepening snow, even the most pessimistic delegate will have left with a warm glow and a contented feeling that better days are ahead.