Former Comets Promoter Ron Bagley Passes Away
Photo by Steve WallerSat 10 Feb 2018
Former Comets Promoter Ron Bagley, who ran the club in 1981, has passed away just a few days short of his 81st birthday following a short illness. He is pictured above on a visit to Ipswich Speedway in July of last year.
Having started riding at Ipswich in 1958 he spent some time with Sheffield in the 1960's after Ipswich closed before retiring for a short while in the late 1960's.
However, he returned to the sport to captain the Ipswich Witches when his home-town club re-opened under John Berry's management in 1969. But, after two and a half years in the side he jumped over the fence to become their team manager at the end of July 1971, when they then went on to win the KO Cup final, after beating the Comets in the two-legged semi-final of the competition to get there.
The Witches then moved up into the First Division in 1972 and as team manager he led the side to several major trophies including league titles in 1975 and 1976. He later went on to manage Mildenhall, leading them to the National League title in 1979, before stunning the speedway world at the end of 1980 when he announced that he was selling his photography business and moving up to Cumbria to become the promoter at Workington for 1981; taking over from local garage owner Eddie Thornborrow, who had run the club single-handed in 1980.
Unfortunately, 1981 did not go according to plan and, while it was an improvement on 1980, the Comets still finished next to the bottom of the league and, with dwindling crowds along with a catalogue of misfortune and injuries, lost a significant amount of money.
Ultimately, Ron Bagley was left in the difficult financial position of being unable to come to the tapes in 1982 and after 12 seasons the club folded. That proved to be his last involvement with the sport in an official capacity.
Comets co-promoter and team manager Tony Jackson remembers the Ron Bagley era vividly and said: “Naturally everyone connected with the club sends its condolences to Ron Bagley's family and friends at this very sad time.
“They were tough times and very different times from today, albeit with the same basic problems facing today's speedway clubs – that of crowd levels and the income they generate.
“Ron, like Eddie the year before, struggled to get any top riders to come to Workington, which meant we were always up against it from day one. Of course there was no points limit in those days so certain teams had all the best riders with a team total way over 50 points while others such as us, Milton Keynes and a couple of others really struggled to be competitive; so you can see how the points limit has helped the sport become much more balanced since then.
“While some signings such as Mike Hiftle, who broke his leg in his first match, and an out of sorts Chris Pusey did not work out, we had a few injuries at key moments to key riders and it became a real struggle by the end. But, ironically we had the makings of a good side for the future, with a fantastic crop of youngsters such as Mark Dickinson, Wayne Jackson, Kevin Clapham, Dave Blackburn, John Frankland and Guy Wilson who all developed the hard way in 1981 and had we run in 1982 then I am convinced that things would have been very much better all round.
“Ron had the inspirational, crowd-pleasing and hugely entertaining Terry Kelly leading the side as a wise and experienced old head while the early season broken ankle for the stylish Barrow-based Ian Hindle, in only his third official fixture, was a blow from which the club never really recovered and it certainly made the difference between winning and losing several home matches.
“Nevertheless, the team certainly tried every time they took to the track, and the famous home meeting against Newcastle had absolutely everything you could want from a speedway meeting – and anyone that was there that night will still clearly remember it as one of the best and most incident-packed meetings ever held at Derwent Park – even now, some 37 years later!
“But, at the end of the day, the crowds dropped alarmingly due to a lack of success on the track and the money ran out. It really was as simple as that!
“The BSPA demanded extra financial bonds for 1982 and despite trying to raise the necessary money in what was an unrealistic time-frame Ron eventually had to admit defeat and, by the end of January, the club had to formally declare that they were unable to race in 1982 as they had been unable to satisfy the demands of the BSPA.
“Nevertheless, despite the heart-breaking way it all ended, you have to admire Ron Bagley for taking the brave gamble of selling up and moving north from Suffolk to run the club against all the odds in the first place. In doing so the club had one more season of racing that it wouldn't have otherwise had; because, if he had he not done so, then 1980 would have been our last season of the first era.”
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Last Updated : Sat 10 Feb 2018, 00:20 UK