IN its edition for November 7, 2015, Speedway Star’s Brian Burford posed once again the perennial question, 'Is Speedway Too Dangerous?'
It's a question that has never been answered and can never be answered in that form, except by another question:
Too dangerous for what?
Too dangerous to be televised live? Too dangerous for children to watch? Too dangerous without vastly improved protective clothing for participants? Or just too dangerous for insurance companies to consider it a viable risk?
When Mr Burford puts the unqualified question to a number of figures in the sport, the answers he gets are predictably varied. 'No,' says rider Scott Nichols, 'I wouldn't say it's any more dangerous now than it was.' Australia manager Mark Lemon suggests that one reason for the number of crashes and injuries is that many modern riders have grown up with air-
Of course, insurance companies wouldn't be interested in their opinions. They operate on costs and probabilities. They might calculate the risk to a rider simply as the likelihood of a certain type of accident occurring multiplied by the cost of such an event. The total risk for speedway might then be the sum of all such risks for each different type of injury.
Riders can still get insurance so evidently the insurance companies don't consider the risks to be prohibitive. But what about the viewing public? Pick up a programme and you are unlikely to feel that the sport is any more dangerous than it ever was. A Berwick Speedway programme from their second year of operation, 1969, carries the simple but stark warning, 'Motorsports are dangerous and spectators attending this meeting do so entirely at their own risk.' Forty-
In earlier decades, of course, speedway programmes typically contained no warnings at all.
Mr Burford, during his wide-
The figures are useful because they were prepared by the insurance broker George Burrows, who covered thirty-
While the Speedway Star breaks down its injury toll into the nature of the damage: legs, wrists, shoulders, etc., the figures provided by George Burrows & Company are analysed in terms of the causes. 31.5 percent of the accidents in 1952 were collisions. Over-
In his report to the Speedway Control Board, Mr Burrows concludes: 'From a close study of the claims coupled with certain unofficial reports it does appear that the accident ratio need not have been so heavy – safety fences on occasions were not as safe as they might have been, several surfaces were too slick and, in a few cases, riders' machines were at fault.'
If conclusions about the rate of attrition in 2015 were published today, would they sound significantly different?