Is Edinburgh Monarchs’ new match presentation package speedway’s life-line? - Liam Rudden

IT seems no time at all since John McGillivray and myself climbed the steps of our ‘Tower Studio’ at Armadale Stadium for the first time.Nevertheless, the end of another Edinburgh Monarchs’ speedway season is fast approaching.
John McGillivray and Liam Rudden in The TowerJohn McGillivray and Liam Rudden in The Tower
John McGillivray and Liam Rudden in The Tower

It’s been a whirlwind few months that has given me a whole new appreciation of the sport I’ve loved since I was just 13 years old.

Last week proved an especially important meeting, and not just because of what was happening on the track- as it turned out, an easy win for the Staggs Bar Monarchs over a depleted Somerset Rebels squad.

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No, it was notable because, for the first time ever, the match was being beamed live into another stadium, the Oaktree Arena, allowing Rebels’ fans to watch the unfolding action.

It was a development the club had been working towards all season and one that, I’ll admit, had the adrenalin pumping harder than normal as the countdown in our ear-pieces told John and myself that we were ‘on-air’.

For those who maybe missed earlier columns, match presentation at Armadale is broadcast live onto a large screen in the stadium, with John and myself link the races with chat and interviews, although it has proved easier to entice some riders in front of the camera, than others.

To put it in context, the Club produces the equivalent of two hours live telly every Friday night.

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They do a brilliant job too. John and I might be the faces you see on screen but without Graeme, Gordon, Rachel and Callum in the control room, all the camera operators, Bill in the referees box and the ever-willing team managers who get thrust in front of the cameras every week, there wouldn’t be anything to watch.

It’s been a real voyage of discovery for everyone - never knew I could talk coherently to camera as numerous voices shout in my ear simultaneously, although there have been occasions where I visibly jumped.

From The Tower this season, we have watched some fantastic racing, seen a few spectacular spills, thankfully without any serious injury, said farewell to the club’s legendary photographer Ron MacNeill, read out a host of birthday greetings, gone through a lot of hand-warmers and, with the aid of Jane and Molly, made a few fans better off through the Half Cut and Grand draws.

All of which was, in many ways, all a ‘rehearsal’ for last Friday, a match package streamed live the length of the country.

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For speedway, an expensive sport, it was a vital next step.

With teams scattered across the UK, often hundreds of miles apart, a large away gate is not always possible (it’s a long way from Edinburgh to Somerset), but just imagine if last week’s broadcast could become a regular occurrence throughout the League. It could prove the life-line many clubs are seeking, while allowing fans to follow their team’s away adventures.

Fingers crossed. Only time will tell.