SWINDON ROBINS speedway team begin their final season at the Abbey Stadium in March – as a new era dawns in the sport as a whole, with live daily streaming of race meetings.
The building of the new venue for both speedway and greyhound racing at Blunsdon has suddenly come off the back burner with the diggers due to move in this week.
Meanwhile, fans will soon be able to watch and bet on their favourite sport as speedway begins to shed its shabby mid-20th century image and drags itself into the digital age.
Long-time benefactors of speedway, Sky Sports, recently signed a new five-year deal to televise a minimum of 25 meetings a year, starting with the Elite League Riders Championship from Coventry at the end of March.
But awareness of speedway is set to be expanded both domestically and globally thanks to a partnership between the leading dedicated horse racing channel At The Races and Go Speed International.
GSI, founded and run by former Swindon Robins co-owner Terry Russell, owns the exclusive media rights to British speedway.
Sport Mediastream, a new in-house division of At The Races, will supply the technology to beam an audio/visual service of live and archive speedway races and data six days a week to fans via PCs, mobiles and tablets.
The 4G technology will be trialled at Swindon’s greyhound meeting this Saturday by At The Races.
Swindon Robins, Elite League champions in 2012 and one of the more successful clubs in the division, were not immune from the financially precarious nature of the sport and at one point last season their riders threatened not to race over non-payment of fees.
Russell insists that all Elite (10) and Premier (13) league clubs will benefit eventually from the new revenue stream although at the moment, he says ‘no money is guaranteed’.
Russell told the Standard: “I have been working hard on this project with At The Races, who are partly-owned by Sky, for more than a year.
“In the first season it will be ‘Bet To Watch'. Speedway fans will need to place a bet in order to gain access to the live streaming of races they are interested in.
“But in 2015 we could see speedway action live every night in betting shops – and there are 10,000 of those around the country.”
Russell envisages the shows being up and running when the two leagues begin at the end of March. With almost 650 fixtures to choose from, in addition to those covered by Sky, there should be regular opportunities for Swindon’s speedway fans to watch and punt on their heroes. One meeting a night will be featured.
As the only Elite League fixture on Thursday, April 3, Swindon’s opening clash of 2014 with Coventry looks a prime candidate for At The Races coverage.
“The line-ups of teams are known two days in advance which gives the bookies ample time to set up their odds, and the results will be supplied by the Press Association,” said Russell.
“I can’t say betting is something that interests me personally. I can spend a week in Las Vegas without betting a dollar.
“But this is a great opportunity for speedway to ‘monetise’ and raise its profile. It should prove a huge boost to awareness of the sport."
Matthew Imi, chief executive of At The Races, said: "There is a lot of depth to the sport (speedway), performance data, tactics and scoring systems that we think all serve to make it an exciting prospect as a betting product.
"Through our Sport Mediastream division we look forward to developing this and other opportunities directly with our many bookmaker partners."
Meanwhile, a Robins insider told the Standard that work was about to get under way on the new stadium development at Blunsdon.
“This is the last season of racing at the Abbey Stadium,” revealed the source. “The Robins will have a new home for the 2015 season.
“The first job will be to relocate the away team pits because that structure is due to be pulled down to allow the new access road to be built to the new stadium, which will be adjacent to the Motorola site.”