BSPA CONFERENCE: AN INSIGHT

NEWS Saturday 26th November 2005, 10:00am

by Graeme Paterson

In a special feature, John Campbell gives an insight into the BSPA conference and expands on some of the decisions.

edinburghspeedway.com caught up with Monarchs co-promoter, John Campbell, after his return from Tenerife and his twenty second consecutive BSPA AGM. We started by asking him to give us some background as to what goes on?

JDC :

It's normally a three day meeting and this year it was in the Playas de las Americas resort on Tenerife. This year the event started on Monday morning at 10.00am. That's a bit later than the other days to give the late arrivals a chance to be fresh for the start of the first day. Although I arrived on the island at 1.00pm on Sunday afternoon (after a 5.00am departure from my house) others were nearer to midnight before they got to the hotel.

The other two days start at 9.00am and each day it was well past 5.00pm before we get out to daylight. Our conference room was two floors below the swimming pool this year and had no windows. Any suggestion that we have time to sunbathe is a total myth! The sun's barely up in the morning when we start and is disappearing behind the palm trees before we get out again.

We escaped for lunch of course but that was much less than an hour on each of the three days.

The set up of the meeting room is also important. There were twenty four tracks present this year and some bring two promoters. We've also got the office staff to accommodate as well. This year the room was perfect with a square table setting meaning that you were not very far from anyone and could clearly hear what was going on.

Generally all the promoters meet together but at certain times, and for short periods, the two leagues (the Conference League are not represented) split to discuss their own business like points limits, competitions and other things pertinent to their own business.

EDINBURGHSPEEDWAY.COM :

Is there anything that you can tell us that would give a flavour of what goes on?

JDC :

I'm not sure exactly what you mean. But I would say that there is no "us and them" situation between the promoters. I am equally as keen to see a successful Elite League as I am to see Premier League do well. I consider every promoter to be my friend and, perhaps, even a workmate. We all socialise together after the meetings, not in a big gang of course, but it's just as likely to see groups of Premier League and Elite League promoters going to dinner together as it is to see groups from the individual leagues.

I travelled to Tenerife in the company of Berwick's Peter Waite and Glasgow's Alan Dick. We get on exceptionally well together as a threesome and openly discuss our problems. Berwick and Glasgow have been very open on their problems but please don't kid yourselves that we have been trouble-free at Armadale over the past season. All Premier League promoters were aware of the troubles that were threatening to break up an exceptionally good set up.

I went to Tenerife with one of my prime objects being to ensure that as many teams as possible would come to the tapes in the Premier League next March. There were hints that we could get down to as few as nine and that would have been disastrous for those clubs. I'm delighted that we are likely to have thirteen in the Premier with, maybe, more to come.

I hope that our nearest rivals at Berwick and Glasgow will confirm, within the next few days if they haven't already, that they will run in 2006. Believe me, if they manage it, they will each have overcome major problems.

EDINBURGHSPEDWAY.COM :

So aside from the set-up, can you tell us what actually goes on at the meeting?

JDC :

The basic answer to that is no I can't, as it would be wrong of me to discuss the business of a private body. We are all equal and fully paid up members of a club. We are happy to welcome new members providing they are prepared to accept, and play to, our rules. If you've got a speedway track then give me a shout and I'll point you in the right direction for membership of the BSPA.

However, I will give you an idea of how the agenda runs. We start with a review of the previous season. Various reports are given and we review many documents. That can take up a significant part of the first day. We then elect the office bearers for the next season.

We have a five person committee. It's a hard job, or so I'm told. I've never been on the Committee. There are suggestions that I should take up a position with my considerable experience of promoting. I simply couldn't consider it with the time pressures involved. Alex was on the committee and eventually was elected Vice Chairman and I can assure you that Alex found it incredibly pressurised and time consuming when he held the committee positions. Just ask him and he'll tell you!!!!

We've got the same committee on board again. Chairman Peter Toogood of Somerset, Chris Van Straaten of Wolverhampton, Neil Machin of Sheffield, Matt Ford of Poole and Dave Pavitt of Isle of Wight. They are basically full time speedway promoters and can give more time to the mechanics of running the league than some of us can.

With the committee in place we move on to talk about various matters to do with next season. Points limits, competitions rules. I'll say no more in case I give away something I shouldn't but it was a rush to get things finished by 5.30pm. Although that is not longer than a normal working day for most, the meetings go non stop and there is always something being said that requires your full concentration. It's hard going.

Due to other business commitments some promoters flew out of the island again on Wednesday night so any suggestion that this meeting is simply a holiday is incorrect, although some, who don't have a chance to holiday in the summer, do take the chance to make it a bit of a family holiday by extending their stay. I used to do that but as my boys have got older we've decided to take our family holidays on our own, away from speedway, although we've got to go in the winter!

EDINBURGHSPEEDWAY.COM :

There has been plenty of discussion, in particular on the internet, about some of the rule changes coming out of the conference but the real eye opener is the introduction of 33 point team building limit. What can you tell us about that?

JDC :

It's not just so simple to do that without first giving you some background. Personally, as I've said already, I was keen to keep as many tracks in the PL fold without devaluing the product to do it. I think we have managed that.

Also as background I've also got to say that over the past three seasons I've become very fond of my Dale Devils. I know better than most, except Alan and Alana Robertson maybe, how good most of these guys have become. With the closure of the Devils and no obvious place for them to move to in 2006 I felt terribly unhappy for these young Scots.

There had been some talk about introducing British reserves into all teams but although I understood the background as I speak to British U21 manager Peter Oakes on a weekly basis, I'm not sure how many other PL Promoters fully understood the proposal.

In a nutshell, British reserve standard riders will be placed in three grades, A, B and C. Each team can have a grade A rider and a grade C rider or two grade B riders or two grade C riders. For obvious reasons I was in favour of such a proposal but I was surprised how quickly my colleagues got behind the idea. That was the first two places in the team for 2006. Derek Sneddon is a grade A rider and many of the other Devils are Grade C. Robert Ksiezak is within the gradings list as well. I'll quickly add that this is a two year deal for these reserves as they will remain in that position for two full seasons, if they are good enough. There will be a mechanism put in place to move upwards those that turn out to be too good.

Equally there will be a ten point reduction in the average of any one of these riders moving into the main body of the team. It is a proposal put forward by Peter Oakes that will be administered by him. It is another step in progression, as my colleagues would say, which will ultimately produce the next "English" world champion. There is sound evidence to suggest that British teams or individuals doing well in sport will boost attendances at that sport. The enthusiasm for the England cricket team during the past summer would certainly concur with that idea.

There has been a feeling for sometime now that averages including bonus points don't correctly reflect a rider's true points scoring ability so the decision was to remove bonus points. You may be aware that there is a believe that limiting points limits will also limit rider costs. I don't subscribe to that view and with a 33 point limit without bonus points there will be teams starting the 2006 season with combined averages of more than 45 points including bonus points, so there has been no dilution of the product. Anyone who doesn't believe that, please send me an email and I'll be happy to give an example of what I mean.

In addition, we have still knocked a further 2.5% off the top five riders who are British to further encourage their use.

EDINBURGHSPEEDWAY.COM :

The TS and TR regulations have been retained although it seems the vast majority of posters on the various internet chatzones on the subject are strongly against them. Why do you think that is?

JDC :

I'm not getting involved in the argument over these regulations although I agree with your view that the internet 'correspondents' tend to dislike the rule, although those who castigate these rules on the internet are not the majority of those who use the internet nor are they anywhere near the majority of speedway supporters. However, these rules are very well liked by Elite League promoters and there is no doubt that many teams within that league have shown very substantial increases in average crowds in the last year or two.

EDINBURGHSPEEDWAY.COM :

We understand that we are to have play-offs to decide the 2006 League Champions and to the extent that the team finishing 8th in the league could end up champions. How can that be good for the sport?

JDC :

Some suggest that the best team in the league did fall apart when they suffered a crucial injury and I'd certainly agree with that. I'm in no doubt that if Robert hadn't been injured in April and Ross been struck down in June we would have gone on to win the league title in 2005 as neither returned to the team at anything like their pre injury form.

Oh! I guess you are talking about Rye House losing out on the Cup and Shield because of the Robson injury. Well I think that my example shows that injury can happen at any time of the season and wreck championship chances. As for the play off situation I think PL promoters were greatly attracted by the experiences of the Elite League. Belle Vue, although to the outside, they were certain to lose out after their first leg debacle, still drew a crowd to Kirmanshulme Lane VERY significantly higher than their average attendance. Coventry also drew massive crowds at the end of the season. More and more sports are turning to play-offs, perhaps driven by Sky.

Maybe the Premiership should turn to play offs to stop their dwindling crowds as it is obvious to all now that Chelsea will win the title very year. I'd like to think that Sky will cover the Finals.

Last season we ran on a Saturday afternoon and in pouring rain on more than one occasion to race enough matches, losing money heavily on the way, to qualify for a competition that no one was interested and in which we lost more money. At least if we go down the same route in 2006 we'll qualify for a competition that will still have some meaning.

There have been suggestions that there are not enough dates in the calendar to fit in all matches. As you will probably all know I set the Premier League fixture list and I have every confidence that they are plenty of dates available, although if you can all get down on your knees now and start praying for fine weather I'd be most grateful as would all my fellow promoters.

EDINBURGHSPEEDWAY.COM :

We've lost Exeter, Hull and Reading to the Elite League from last season's PL and Mildenhall have joined. Do you think there are enough teams in the Premier League?

JDC :

Obviously the more the merrier and I think we are a long way short of the maximum number that the League can accommodate. I'll be starting the preparation of the PL fixture list imminently but I'll throw it away and start again if we get a late entry or two. Chris Van Straaten has got planning permission at Redcar although he has still to make a formal application to join any league. A promoter of his experience I'd welcome with open arms. Tony Mole also has a reapplication for permission at Birmingham on the go and although not as attractive as Chris I'd throw my arms round him too! Who knows though, it's not my decision. I'm very happy to see Mick Horton running at Mildenhall and he's been a pleasure to speak to in Tenerife.

EDINBURGHSPEEDWAY.COM :

Shared events are back at the same tracks as last year. Can they not be run at neutral Elite League tracks?

JDC :

It's a question often raised and I'm afraid the answer to the neutral EL tracks is no. These events are called shared events because the PL promoters share the profits. In November, when we get our share, the distribution of these funds can be crucial. We've had excellent shared events at Coventry and Peterborough in years gone by. Coventry became unavailable when they started running dogs on a Saturday and Sunday. The magic of Peterborough disappeared when they reduced the level of the spectator banking and it became impossible to see what was going on. I get notification every year of the crowd levels at these meetings and the EL tracks cannot produce a crowd for us. We need a good base crowd, ie locals that have an interest in the meeting, and EL supporters don't come to PL events as they believe that they are watching a lower standard of racing. Glasgow produced a fantastic crowd last season for the Pairs and we would have won that but for Ross's injury. If we don't qualify by right we'll get a wild card entry so from a pure selfish point of view, there couldn't be a better venue.

Workington, we'd have won that as well, had no one from their top three riding in that meeting last season, so not unexpectedly, the crowd dipped. It will go up again next season and we'll win it again.

Sheffield produced the highest attendance of any shared event in either Elite or Premier. It's a fantastic venue. Could Armadale stage a shared event? We've got the facilities to match Sheffield, I think but we probably don't have the space in the pits for either the Pairs or the Fours.

EDINBURGHSPEEDWAY.COM :

Finally the most important question of them all, on the off-chance you'll tell us who will line up for the Monarchs in 2006?

JDC :

Ah, now there's a leading question. It's maybe a bit early yet to give away the team but I can say, with some confidence, that we'll have two British reserves and one of them will be Derek Sneddon. After that I'm fairly sure that we'll have another five riders with a total average of less than 33 without bonus points. From where I'm sitting it's looking very, very good. I'd advise anyone who hasn't purchased a season ticket yet, to get their hands on one before the prices go up on 19th December. You can download an application form from this website.

edinburghspeedway.com would like to thank John Campbell for providing the interview above, and he will next be in action, with his co-promoter Alex Harkess, at the Monarchs video show at the Thomas Morton Hall on Friday 9th December. It is almost traditional that some team news comes out of this event. Will that be the case this year? Be there at 7.30pm to find out.