Speedway fans demand change

Mick Horton reckons speedway bosses need to take heed immediately of what is virtually a supporters' campaign against the detested tactical rider rule.

Mick Horton reckons speedway bosses need to take heed immediately of what is virtually a supporters' campaign against the detested tactical rider rule.

The Mildenhall promoter is hoping the Speedway Star magazine poll, in which the fans overwhelmingly condemned the system that allows a nominated rider's points to be doubled in a race if his team has fallen nine behind will be discussed at this weekend's Premier League annual meeting.

"It's the big issue of the moment in our sport," he said. "And when you have the supporters voting something like 91pc against the tactical rider rule you just can't ignore that.

"I'd like to see the Star poll brought up at this weekend's meeting so that everybody can have their say. It doesn't seem to make much sense to continue with a rule so many people who pay to watch speedway are totally against.

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"I was at my son's football match the other morning and a speedway supporter brought up the tactical-rider ruling, comparing it with soccer.

"He reckoned it was like Manchester United being told by the referee their next goal would count double when they 2-0 down to Chelsea.

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"I know speedway is very different to football and the sports aren't really that comparable, but that's the way many fans look at it, and they are obviously not happy about it.

"Maybe it was a good thing that the rule had such an influence on the Elite League play-off final this year. It really brought it into full focus."

Horton, whose brother Colin was a beneficiary of the rule, as boss of Elite champions Peterborough, also has experience as a team manager of the effect of double-scoring subs.

"I don't think it's much of a secret that teams sometimes try to make sure they don't get far enough in front to trigger the rule, or at other times that they do fall far enough behind to be able to nominate a sub," he said.

"That can get team managers into the very dodgy situation of being tempted to instruct riders not to win races, and that can't be much further from the spirit of the sport.

"You'd probably get a bit of that with the old tactical-sub rule where a top rider could be given an extra ride, but with that you didn't get the second man scoring more points than the winner, and you didn't get the 8-1 heats that can totally transform a match. We have to thrash this out now."

The Mildenhall boss was feeling slightly worse for wear following the club's well-attended end of season gathering at the Bell Hotel in Mildenhall, at which he assured the fans the Fen Tigers would be staying in the Premier League despite the various problems experienced in the inaugural campaign.

"It was a great night," he said, "everybody was very upbeat and looking forward already to next season.

"Unfortunately at this stage, before the annual meeting I wasn't able to give them any news about next season's line-up. But we'll soon be able to get down to re-building the side."

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