Inside Track 2014: World number three Niels-Kristian Iversen’s weekly look inside the Norfolk Arena
PUBLISHED: 15:17 29 August 2014 | UPDATED: 15:17 29 August 2014
I’ve competed in England non-stop since 2003 and I really enjoy riding in this country.
Of course when you have tracks that are not prepared properly it’s frustrating but most of the time I love racing in the UK. The fact that I live here does make things a little bit easier for me than some of the other riders – especially at the beginning of the season when you’re not riding much in Europe.
I don’t think the length of the campaign is too big either, as long as the weather holds up. But it does get hard with the number of meetings during the main term when the leagues in Poland, Sweden, Denmark and especially the Grand Prix series get going. It’s hard to cope with all of the travelling, staying on top of your physical fitness, and catching up with your sleep. That’s the downside of being so busy.
However, there’s always been a lot of fixtures in British speedway so I wouldn’t cut it down from riding teams four times to just twice, like we do elsewhere in Europe during the regular season (before the play-offs kick in). It didn’t used to be a problem when the UK was the number one league in the world and everyone wanted to ride here. It is clear to see though that things have changed so much during the past 15 years in the sport.
The fact is countries like Sweden, Denmark, and especially Poland are just more attractive for most of the guys who ride in the GPs. It’s the strongest in terms of the quality of opposition, the amount of finances on offer, and the number of spectators that you race in front of. You can earn more in Poland by riding 16 times than you can in England by doing 32 meetings. It was probably still the same before Birmingham folded and we had 36 meetings!
World champion Tai Woffinden has spoken of late about how demanding his schedule is. And I would say that’s why some riders choose not to ride in the UK now. I wouldn’t say it’s the money side of it as there’s obviously finances to be gained from doing the Elite League. If you do a full programme it’s just really, really tough to cope.
British speedway’s schedule is too demanding and too draining for some riders’ resources. It’s a good thing for those who don’t ride abroad or do the GPs – they need the money and the meetings. But for the guys in the world championship it’s why so many, if they have to lose one, drop the UK first. There’s two sides to it all, so instead of just cutting the amount of fixtures, I agree with Woffy and I think we could share the number one position at clubs. It would solve a lot of problems.
If you’re riding around the world, in all the top leagues, sometimes it’s hard to have a life during the season. Things change for riders when they have a family. So I fully understand why guys pull out of a country completely. But letting a rider only do half of the meetings would certainly interest a lot of us. It would keep people sharp, boost their income, and not put too much of a strain on their hectic programmes.
If some clubs didn’t like the idea, you could make the ‘job share’ an optional thing. The riders and clubs could then figure it out between themselves if they decided to go for it. I wouldn’t make it automatic as that would be a bit unfair on riders who don’t agree with it, and want to do all of the meetings. But I bet plenty would support it if it got implemented. I suppose we’ll just have to see what happens. We can only do what the regulations tell us we can do. Yet, I certainly think it would bring back top riders to the UK, and surely that can only be a good thing.
If you had one guy who did the A fixtures (home and away v club the first time), and the ‘job share’ do the B meetings (three and four against team), you’d get to race all of the tracks as well as having a rest. I really think it could work.
As for having a set race night, which is something else Tai said, I don’t agree with that. Sometimes it’s difficult with all the changes that happen and not every country, like Denmark, has all of its action on the same evening.
I just think it’s something that perhaps needs to be a little more flexible. And two numbers one would help that issue.
I really believe you can still have a great league, perhaps a better one, with shared number ones.
- Niels-Kristian Iversen was talking to Gavin Caney.
* To read Niels’ exclusive weekly column first, and in print – buy Wednesday’s paper. Visit www.edp24.co.uk/sport/kings-lynn-stars for an archive of Iversen’s articles.