Featured Image: by Alana Warrington
BY DAVID LONG (Auckland, NZ)
Western Springs Speedway Manager John McCallum fears the sport won’t survive at the Auckland venue if the city remains in red under the government’s Covid-19 Protection Framework.
There are 12 events scheduled at the iconic venue this summer, but if the NZ Government decide to keep the Auckland region in red for another month when it next reviews the situation on December 13, that would leave just four race nights left on the calendar.
Having so few events could prove ‘fatal’ for speedway at Western Springs fears McCallum. “We have a 12 meeting season and we would have been left with four shows,” McCallum said.“That could be fatal for Auckland speedway. It’s hard to make Western Springs pay over 12 shows, trying to make it pay over four is a hell of an ask.”
The Government has said it took a cautious approach when moving the country into the traffic light system, but any future movement to orange would depend on Covid-19 case numbers, vaccination rates and the stress hospitals are under.
The signs are that Auckland is tracking in the right direction for a switch to orange, but the government haven’t dropped any hints that a move is on the cards, only that it could be possible.
McCallum says he and other event organisers are crying out for some indication.
“With the announcement being on December 13, the 14th would be the first day we tell anybody and work on getting an event in place and that leads us to the 18th as our date to run.
“So we’d have three days to ticket up, power up and get going.
“But if Jacinda Ardern was to announce on the 13th that Auckland was staying in red, the next announcement would be January 17.
“By that point, our next available date is January 30 and we would have lost three quarters of our season.”
But a significant motor sport event which was planned to take place in the region has already pulled the plug.
Organisers of the Battle of Jacks Ridge rally event, which was scheduled to take place on February 5-6, announced on Saturday that it would be cancelled.
The reason given for this was because there was no clear date on when Auckland would move to orange.
“We considered holding off until the next Government announcement on December 13 to see if there was a confirmed date that Auckland would move into orange,” event manager Paul Fallon said.
“However, with the information provided and the likelihood of Auckland remaining in red for the next few weeks, we felt it was important to give the many competitors and fans who had purchased tickets a decision, as they have travel and accommodation arrangements that need to be cancelled or changed, and many would appreciate refunds prior to Christmas.”
Speedway is New Zealand’s biggest spectator sport over the summer months, with races at Western Springs attracting crowds of between 6000 and 10,000 for each meeting.
But for next Saturday McCallum said they’ve decided to organise a behind closed doors event, with fans able to watch online, even though he expects to lose money doing it.
“The online meeting has never been tried in New Zealand before and it will be like a pay-per-view boxing event,” he said.
“But it’s the only option we have, because Auckland competitors can’t get out of the city to race anywhere else.”
Like a number of other sporting and event promoters, McCallum is desperate to hear positive news from the government on December 13, but what he’d really like to hear now is something that would allow him to make plans for the summer.
“If we had some hint of a plan that would be great,” he said.
“They said two doses for summer, so we’ve got vaccinated, but the reward is that we can’t run.
“The indications for why you’d be in red at the moment is ICU not coping and cases rising, but those things aren’t happening.
“If they’re still not happening by December 13, why wouldn’t we go to orange?
“If we thought it was going to go to orange, we’d say we’re pretty confident that’s what is going to happen, so let’s start advertising the events. But it’s hard to push on with that planning.”