THE COST OF RUNNING HACKNEY SPEEDWAY IN 1986
Taken from the 1986 publication Speedway Mails The Inside Line and reproduced with kind permission of editor Tony McDonald.
EVER fancied being a speedway promoter?
Probably most supporters have at some stage and, on the surface it seems a cosy enough existence. It's a simple job, of course. All you need to do is invest in a pocket calculator and juggle seven rider's names to fit within the 45 point limit.
Then you employ a team manager to fill in the programme and look after your riders. There is no need even for the promoter to dirty his best suit and shoes by visiting the pits on race night, because he can sit and watch the racing from the warmth and comfort of the stadium restaurant. If his team is doing very well he might like to swagger onto the centre green smoking a big cigar and milk the praise from his home crowd. who acclaim him as the genius who put together a titlewinning team.
At the end of the night, after the riders have been paid, comes the best bit. The promoter gathers up all the many thousands of pounds paid by supporters at the turnstiles. He could treat himself to a new Rolls Royce, or take the wife and kids on a three-week holiday to the Bahamas once the season has finished.
And the great thing is that this ' job' only lasts 30 weeks of the year. In the winter, the promoter can put his feet up by the fire and look forward to a week in the Spanish sun around December time, when all his BSPA colleagues assemble to compare their rich pickings from the sport.
It sounds a great life ... except that it isn't like that at all.
A number of British and National League tracks are now run by promoters whose enthusiasm and genuine love of the sport far exceeds the income at their tracks.
A number of National League promoters have been forced out of the sport in recent seasons, but many more could not make this game pay without an additional business outside the sport to back them up.
THE INSIDE LINE was curious to know exactly how much it costs to promote speedway and Hackney promoter TERRY RUSSELL kindly agree to provide us with a breakdown of the expense he and partner Dave Pavitt incur in running one of the National League' s top clubs.
Russell reveals that Hackney Speedway's annual budget for the season is around £l20,000, of which a staggering £62,760 is swallowed up by basic riders' costs. The home promoter pays the basic NL pay rate as agreed between the BSPA and SRA which broken down is:
But on top of this, there are bonus points to be paid - and in the case of a 5-1 heat win, the promoter must pay two riders at £28, one at £9 and one at £3. That's £68 per race and, as Hackney stage an average 19 each Friday, it can easily amount to £1292 per meeting and £38,760 per 30 week season.
Hackney’s ‘individual bonus incentive scheme’ for the riders is £500 per meeting or £15,000 over the season. But remember the bonuses apply to home and away meetings - but gate receipts are only gained at Waterden Road. Russell and Pavitt must find another £9,000 each season for riders' travel expenses which are set at 8p per mile, covering all home and away fixtures in the NL KOC Cup, 4TT and challenge matches.
. In addition to what is paid to riders, Hackney's basic running costs - as revealed in the table - total another £55,160.
By dividing the £119,120 annual budget by 30 (weeks in the season), we find that it costs the Hackney promoters £3,970.66p to stage each, home meeting.
What about income? At the time this article was published Hackney's average attendance excluding the NL Best Pairs which was staged on behalf of the BSPA was 1,250, comprising an average of 1000 adults (paying £3) and 250 children (£1 each). But Terry Russell estimates that they need a crowd of 1,300 to merely break even.
"Our 'short fall' is covered by HL1sponsorship,which is obviously so important to us" he said.
The cost of promoting NL speedway at Hackney , and the very thin dividing line between profit and loss is obviously of concern to Terry Russell, who has his own private thoughts on the direction British speedway should take in 1987.
But Russell is not crying on anybody’s shoulder. You asked me if I would explain what it costs to run Hackney Speedway, and I'm happy to do it for INSIDE LINE. I'm not pleading poverty," he says.
"No doubt some people will scoff at these figures and say they are exaggerated, but I can assure you they are genuine, audited figures. In fact there are extra costs that I haven’t listed. For example, our team coach broke down on the way back from Exeter and it cost £1,800 to fix the gearbox. And earlier this year, a new engine for our tractor cost £1,300. I've also not included telephone bills, which are sometimes huge, and not accounted for the possibility of activity in the transfer market. There are other incidentals, but these are our basic running costs.
"I didn't want to go on listing every single item of expense, because these figures
are enough to frighten me"
Russell's figures will surprise, even shock, some people who believed there is little to running a National League club. Hackney HL1 Kestrels are regarded among the most viable and successful outfits in the country, and no doubt track bosses at other venues could
provide their own figures to illustrate the precarious business it is trying to balance the speedway books.
We would like to publicly thank Terry Russell for his honesty and co-operation in providing this insight to Hackney's budget. The point is, figures disclosed here show that there is much more to being a speedway promoter than simply turning up on race night, opening the gates and sitting back to watch the fans flood in .
So do you still fancy being at the helm?