Olly Allen hoping to keep British speedway on the right track
- Credit: Ian Burt
If you cut Olly Allen, he bleeds speedway.
Unfortunately for the well-respected 33-year-old, his injuries over the years have given him plenty of opportunities to look at the damage that's been caused to his body by a sport which sees riders hurtle around an oval track on a motorbike with no brakes.
The Norwich-born Peterborough Panthers man is still sidelined with the season-ending broken ankle that cut his 2015 season short before it had really started. And it's given him the perfect opportunity to help start creating the next generation of talent.
In a sport, and country especially, that is woefully short of competitors, Allen knows more than most how difficult is it to make a living from being a professional. Which is why he's the ideal man to front the new British Speedway Promoters' Association (BSPA) Training Programme from Poultec's swanky base in Mattishall, near Dereham.
Allen said: 'I've always wanted to give something back to speedway because I felt there were a lot of aspects for the sport that young British riders are not aware of and don't really know where to go to get that training.
'The British riders have to go out and find out themselves. Some don't bother. Some look in the wrong places. And I've always wanted to point them in the right direction so this is what this is all about. If I was 16, I'd be jumping at it. I really would. I grew up with top youngsters from different nations, the likes of (Antonio) Lindback, (Jarek) Hampel and those sort of guys. I used to spend a lot of time with them around Europe at different events and they've give me snippets of different training programmes they were on and the support they had from their own federation. We had nothing like that at all. So it's now time that we try and catch up.
'Hopefully we'll end up having the next generation of people that are better than Olly Allen – that's the plan. I thought I would miss riding more than I have done and I think that's because I'm involved with this. It gives me time for my injuries to heal and I can stay involved with the sport and share what I know.'
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Allen's career started in 1997 and he has gone on to ride for a host of clubs, including King's Lynn, in different countries around Europe. So his knowledge will be essential for the 14 rookies who have signed up to the apprenticeship which will give successful candidates a Level Two Diploma.
They will complete a host of modules on topics ranging from how to deal with the media to learning about the rules and regulations of riding abroad. Track days and working closely with fitness coach Paul Suggett, as well as sports psychologist Jennifer Duffy, will help fine-tune the youngsters' actual racing ability.
It is hoped the scheme can bring the glory days back to a sport that is struggling to get anywhere near its heydays of packed crowds in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
'Youth development has sadly been lacking for as long as I know,' said Allen. ' To be honest we need to go beyond what we're doing. We need to start younger. That's not what we're doing. Our job is to nuture riders that are 16 to 24 to give them the tools that they need to be better. It's nice, for once, for something positive to be said about British speedway because it can be doom and gloom at times.
'With the new legislation, you have to stay in education so this is the perfect opportunity for those who want to become a professional speedway rider. I left school when I was 16 and I turned pro and went straight into a Premier League team.
'The numbers are quite impressive really so far as we haven't had long to promote it. I think give it another couple of months and we'll have more applications I'm sure. I think word will spread quite quickly now. Word of mouth spreads better than any other form of advertising and the feedback we've had so far has been nothing but positive.'
With Allen at the helm, perhaps his beloved sport might finally be able to stem the flow of negativity that currently surrounds it.