OBVIOUSLY there’s plenty to talk about at the upcoming AGM in terms of the structure of the league and how we get attendances up, but there’s one regulation which annoys me every single time I see it in operation.
It’s not the tactical ride, although I’ve never been a great fan of that, but it’s rule 17.6.B in the Elite League and 18.10.G in the Premier League.
It refers to ‘no facility’ if a rider is absent.
This normally happens when a rider is racing in another meeting in another country, quite often his home country, and generally means a number one in the Elite League is replaced by a Premier League rider with an average of under six.
This completely devalues the meeting and, as the international calendar expands, it’s happening more and more.
The team concerned gets fined, the rider concerned gets fined, but really it’s the supporters who get fined because they aren’t seeing the contest they are entitled to. It also hits the home promotion too because they aren’t getting the attendance in.
In an ideal world our league would be a number one priority for everyone, but in reality that just isn’t the case.
If I sign a Danish rider I have to accept he might miss the odd meeting on a Wednesday to ride in his home league, but then a guest facility would retain some credibility for that meeting.
The European Championship have added some commitments to certain riders, and obviously we don’t recognise that tournament.
I’m slightly biased on that one because I’ve been commentating on it this season, but I think riders should declare, when they sign for a club, whether or not they intend to compete in that competition. Then, if there is a clash and they are called up for a qualifier, there should be a facility and the club in question shouldn’t be given a fixture on one of the European Championship finals days, if they have a rider who has declared they are going to be involved in it.
This year we had the ludicrous situation of both Coventry and Swindon going to Eastbourne on successive weeks without their number one and with no facility. That meant Eastbourne picked up two big wins and two big wage bills with lower crowds, and who benefits?
If we have to fine the riders and the clubs for missing meetings then so be it, but remove the lack of a facility so that the product is a competitive one for the supporters.