I THINK the biggest bugbear with supporters this year, particularly in the Elite League, is the number of matches being held with several riders missing.
It’s often because they are racing for other clubs, often in the same country, and while there are rules governing it people don’t always know or understand the rules for replacing riders.
There are different priorities, sometimes there are original and rearranged fixtures, sometimes riders are assets of the club, so fans don’t always know who they are going to be seeing riders for their team.
As a result of all of this, weekend meetings in the Elite League will typically have two or three riders missing from teams and that’s not good for anyone.
How do you get round that? It’s difficult.
You hear a squad system mentioned quite often, and if I’m honest I’m not sure a full squad system would work, but there are elements of it which would be helpful.
Doubling up is slightly out of control as it is and isn’t used as it was intended when it was introduced all those years ago, but I do understand the riders need to ride as many meetings as they can to learn a living.
I would like to see it reduced to one doubling-up rider per team, if possible, but if it isn’t then at least revert to having two riders sharing the same team place again. Then supporters would at least know who is in their squad and if one is missing then you can bring in the other and they would be a familiar face.
The difficulty in that is that when it was opened up to a slightly better standard of rider there were some issues. When Birmingham signed Ben Barker, who was doing the majority of their meetings, nobody was willing to share the place with Ben Barker because they knew they wouldn’t be getting the meetings. They would have been better off signing elsewhere and getting more meetings.
Riders would have to accept they would only get, say, 15 meetings rather than 30 and that’s probably better than what we have now.
I don’t see any problem at in sharing number ones which I has been mentioned plenty of times. Essentially teams would be able to sign two number ones as an option, it’s not like you would need 20 world class riders, but if there were 15 willing to come over rather than 10 then that would be good.
If Hans Andersen wants to do the entire season for Coventry, then great, but if Wolverhampton are sat with Tai Woffinden and Freddie Lindgren who fancy half a season each then I don’t see any issue with that. The people would know who was in their squad and I wouldn’t have any issue with that at all.
I don’t think simply cutting the fixture list in half would magically bring a load of riders over or make things better, so if we share top riders who have the option to come every other week rather than every week, then that’s great.
This would be a semi squad system.
If you have a squad system like they do in Sweden, most of the Swedish riders go in both the top two divisions over there, but that’s not quite as common here. The worry would then be here, if the British riders weren’t being picked from their squads they wouldn’t be getting any racing.
In that regard it’s pretty interesting that Kenneth Bjerre said recently that the thing he likes about Britain is that you are guaranteed 32 meetings if you’re not injured.
It’s a tough one though and there’s some hard decisions to be made.