IN a hard-hitting interview with Dave Stevens in the May 28 issue of Speedway Star, Belle Vue manager and former England rider Eric Boocock warned that a healthy future for speedway was in serous doubt. These are some of the things he said:

‘Costs are spiralling almost by the hour. The sport has been turned upside down in the three years since I retired from racing. Four-valve engines have been instrumental. It may be too late to ban four-valves now, although I understand that both Jawa and Weslake have developed two-valve heads which would be far more cost-effective than previous two-valve equipment, so present engines would not be rendered obsolete.’

‘At the very minimum, the sport must look at ways which will do something to maintain existing costs for the next five years or so. We’ve got riders today spending about £12 a time on a tyre, (£68 in 2013), and using it twice only, once on each side. I have a bill for £370 (£2,098) to repair a dropped valve using a second-hand con rod. Another is for £37 (£210) covering a faulty ‘black box’ used in six meetings only. Both are for tail-end riders, neither of whom has earned £370 so far this season.’

‘Four-valves have done nothing good for speedway. Tracks have to be so much slicker. Riders are racing on next to concrete surfaces to get grip and, to maintain that grip, they are paying out astronomical costs for no improvement in the sport. These costs must be met by the promoters and … we shall soon find tracks closing because they can no longer afford to maintain such luxuries. And with the changing environmental scene, I fear that they will never, ever be allowed to reopen, as happened after speedway’s previous slump of the mid-Fifties.’

PROMOTERS’ costs could be very high. Birmingham claimed to have paid out £45,000 in 1977, partly on a further instalment of their British League entry fee and partly in the transfer market. (That’s a staggering quarter of a million pounds today).

BAD weather in the early summer of 1977 was one factor causing a sharp dip in attendances. At one track over the Jubilee weekend, a crowd of 2000 watched an attractive fixture that resulted in a cash loss on the night of £1,000 (over £5,000 today).

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The Great Debate 1977

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Speedway Fiction

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The Great Debate 1977

Speedway Fiction

Speedway like it used to be!

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TRAVEL costs for commuting foreign riders were always expensive. Wolves had to pay a cool £1,000 for FINN THOMSEN’s air fares for the month of May 1977 alone. That’s about £5,670 today.

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SIGNING-on fees were another bugbear - and still are. When Wolves approached Tommy Johansson early in the 1977 season, he asked for £6,000 to ride. More than £34,000 at 2013 prices.

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STADIUM entrance fees varied only slightly. At Belle Vue’s Hyde Road stadium, for example, the cheapest entry price was 85p (£4.82 today) while the most expensive seating ticket cost £2.00 (£11.34 in 2013).

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