Keith Denham: The cost of keeping Workington Comets speedway on track
Last updated at 12:52, Friday, 21 September 2012
It comes down to cold, hard cash.
Keith Denham, who runs West Cumbrian building firm Thomas Armstrong, swooped in to save Workington Comets in 2007 after it was revealed the team’s future was on the ropes.
His love of the sport is apparent but, in these cash-strapped times, love can only go so far.
Earlier this week he said that enough was enough and threatened to pull the plug on his beloved team. This came after only 500 people turned up at the side’s match against Glasgow at Derwent Park.
Propping up the sport’s costs out of his own pocket could only last so long.
It costs £8,000 to put on a meeting and between 700 and 750 people need to pass through the turnstiles each week for Mr Denham to break even.
It has been a tough year for Comets.
Mr Denham says: “If we take last Saturday as an example, I had to pay £5,100 on the riders’ wages, which includes their travelling expenses.”
He lost £3,000 putting on that meeting.
He adds: “I will always pay the riders, so if I do not make the money from the ticket sales, it has to come out of my own pocket and I can’t keep on losing money every week.”
Other outlays include the rent to Workington Town rugby league club, which runs Derwent Park; VAT, which accounts for about a fifth of the money; travelling expenses for both teams; plus tyres, fuel, insurance and costs incurred from the British Speedway Promoters Association.
Mr Denham has to pay for the doctors, nurses and St John Ambulance volunteers on standby at every game, and presenter Michael Max.
Plagued by injury, the beleaguered side is just about holding it together and although Mr Denham and his riders are continually bolstered by the die-hard fans, armchair followers need to make the effort to get to the ground if the sport is to survive in Workington.
Tomorrow is a key date, and Mr Denham says: “This is a chance for people to vote with their feet and a chance to help the club.
“The supporters who come week in week out are fantastic and they have kept me going but it is just impossible to run it with no one coming through the doors.
“Tomorrow it is time for people to make their mind up. I will stick it out to the end of the season but I want to make it perfectly clear to past and present fans that if they want speedway at Derwent Park they need to come and support the team.
“We have promoted the club at the Whitehaven Festival and gone into local schools, so what more can I do?”
He is putting his money where his mouth is too.
He says that if 1,000 people turn out to support Workington Comets, they will get a £5 refund on the normal £15 entrance fee after tomorrow’s home meeting against Leicester.
Comets still have two home league fixtures to race and are involved in the semi-finals of both the League and Knock Out Cup and the Premier League play-offs.
Mr Denham hopes his call to arms will galvanise people to go to Derwent Park. The die-hards have already answered the cry.
Workington Speedway Supporters Club has launched a Save Our Speedway campaign, calling on all fans, past and present, to show their support.
Mr Denham says: “I didn’t go into promoting the club for the money.
“I run the club because I love speedway but I do it on my own where other clubs have up to four promoters. It’s difficult.”
He adds that the threat of this being Workington Comets’ last season is very real.
Despite top riders from across the country wanting to ride in West Cumbria next year, Mr Denham has to weigh up his love of the sport with the financial implications and, without people’s support, the situation is untenable.
He has even looked into the possibility of moving into speedway’s Elite League where there are fewer matches to race over the year.
In the Elite League there is a home match every two weeks and payments from Sky TV to ease the financial burden.
But, he says, a decision on whether that would be workable has yet to be made.
First published at 11:50, Friday, 21 September 2012
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk
Have your say
I would go butNo 1) I can think of several ways Â£15 (or Â£10 with the rebate) could be better spent in the current economic climate and No 2) it's no too warm on those terraces at t his time of year andNo 3) It's a bit dear anyway at Â£15 andNo 4) I've no real interest in speedway. Sorry.
Maybe a different night to Saturday cos people go out on a Saturday so maybe even Fri would be better
View all 3 comments on this article