On June 10, 1953, promoter Freddie Mockford pulled the plug on one of London’s iconic speedways when he withdrew his New Cross Rangers from the National League. The decision was sudden and unexpected, made, according to Mockford, ‘so as to cause the least inconvenience to all concerned.’
In the July 8 Speedway News, he gave his nine reasons. Are there lessons to be learned by the sport today, agonising over falling gates, TV coverage, spiralling costs and suffering continued criticism about dull, processional racing? We reproduce Mockford’s article in full and invite readers to draw their own conclusions.
I know by the large number of letters I have had that this has been a blow, but I believe that some good will come of it. Unfortunately, from my point of view it had to be me, but we must face up to the fact that there has been a drop in gates at speedway racing, the same as in all other sports and amusements. There are a number of factors to which this can be attributed, I do not want to put them in order, but here are some of them: television, entertainments tax, lack of spending power of the public due to increased consumer goods in the shops, higher rents, higher rates, increased transport charges, lack of thrills in speedway despite good racing, restriction on foreign riders, lack of new faces especially in the First Division. Each one of these represents a nail in the New Cross coffin.
I think, personally, the blame can be equally distributed among all parties concerned. I know I have made a number of mistakes and can see them quite plainly now, but it is not much good crying over spilt milk, and the thing we must face up to now is that all parties must get together, forgetting all differences and their own individual outlook and just work together for the benefit of the sport.
My suggestions may not meet with the approval of all, but I am putting them forward, believing sincerely that they would bring back at least some of the public that speedway has lost during the past three years, bearing in mind, of course, that television is undoubtedly a very serious competitor and may even be more serious in the near future.
To start with, I think we should go back to “Dirt Track” racing. By this, I mean the old cinder tracks with not less than a minimum of six inches top cinder dressing.
The biggest mistake made was to go for the hard shale tracks; these have limited the riding area almost to about 12 feet only on all tracks. One repeatedly hears people say that there is so much follow-
Wrapped up with this, of course, is the method of payment. I consider the present system is not conducive to anyone giving their utmost. In this connection, it would be advisable to agree to a weekly payment, and then it should be point money only and there should also be an agreement on a minimum get-
This, I think, looks like being a 5,000 gate. Over and above this they should be paid a percentage on every thousand; this percentage to be paid by all tracks to the Riders’ Association, who should distribute it as it thinks fit. Quite obviously, the day of the big money has gone; it may mean that some rider would decide to drop out -
We must not overlook the great differences in payment between the First and Second Division. It
doesn’t matter whether a man rides First, Second or Third Division, he still has a machine to maintain. I also think that track workshops should be done away with, although I was the first to introduce these. Before we had these, every rider used to look after his own machine and knew just what suited him and was, to an extent, a fairly good mechanic himself.
I am still on the question of control. I have long believed, and still do, that it should be an entirely independent Control Board who should operate the rule and regulations only and that, if there are to be different divisions in the future, each should have iyts own association who could meet the Riders’ Association.
I am trying to be constructive because I still hope that I am not out of speedway racing for good and that I can come back. Speedway racing has been my life, and it is hard to drop out altogether.
I sincerely appreciate the friendships I have made with the public, the riders, the Press and the staff, some of whom have been with me the whole of that time. Also a good many supporters who can remember the old Palace days, dating from May 19, 1928. To all of you, may I say how deeply grateful I am for the many kindnesses I have received during those years, and I only hope the sport we have been connected with will continue to flourish and still give enjoyment to many thousands.
I am grateful to the Editor of “Speedway News,” Len Went, for the opportunity of saying farewell, for the time being only I hope, to those friends whom I know I have made in my 26 seasons of promoting Speedway Racing in England and I regret that I had to make this decision to close New Cross so suddenly. I should have liked to have said “goodbye” personally in the programme and over the loud speakers but the sudden decision was made so as to cause the least inconvenience to all concerned with the sport.
Return To ‘Dirt Track’ Plea
NINE REASONS WHY
NEW X FAILED
Despite the hopes expressed below, Fred Mockford, speedway promoter and music hall manager, never returned to the sport that had been his life for a quarter of a century.
THE GREAT DEBATE
If you would like to gain a perspective on the debate about the future of speedway in Britain in the light of similar arguments that have gone on in the past, you might like to read our pages on the Great Debate of 1977.
Speedway Star conducted a forum at the time which posed many of the questions that still face the sport today and the 2013 debate, conducted in the same magazine, covered much the same ground. Does the fact that Fred Mockford posed similar questions mean that speedway never learns? Click here to read the 1977 point of view.
Speedway like it used to be!
Great stories for speedway fans!
Great stories for speedway fans!
The Closure of New Cross
Speedway like it used to be!