Dirt Track racing later referred to a speedway, enjoyed an on again, off again, following with Merseyside sports fans. Liverpool speedway ran intermittently from 1928 to 1960; teams were the Merseysider’s, Chads, Eagles and Pirates. Pre-war teams included such notable riders as Ginger Lees, Eric Blain and probably a first in speedway, three sets of brothers riding on the same team, Tommy and Ernie Price, Oliver and Stan Hart and Eric and Alan Butler.
Stanley Stadium, Prescot Road was Liverpool’s home track, primary a greyhound racing facility, dog racing took place on Saturday nights, Monday was speedway night. Stanley Stadium, an ideal location, near a number of regular bus routes and a railway line, the track was one of the largest within the sport a quarter mile, flat with no real banking, a red shale surface, rather tight bends and long “straight aways”
In 1928 Stanley Stadium was the venue for Open meeting but League racing took place the following yea 1929 when Liverpool joined the English Dirt Track League and in 1930 the National League. For some reason, not apparent now, in 1931 the Greyhound Company refused permission for speedway to be run at the stadium so the team was transferred to Preston. The team was not to return to Liverpool’s Stanley Stadium until 1936 under the promotion of Liverpool Speedway Ltd.
They raced within the Provincial League for that year and the beginning of the following however when E O Spence undertook full control during 1937 he moved the fixtures half way through the season to Belle Vue and racing at Stanley Stadium ceased not to return until after World War II
1949 – 1953
Following the end of the second war, speedway was reborn in Liverpool, 11 April 1949, Stanley Stadium, the first meeting against Hanley drew a crowd of over 9,000 to see the Chads beaten 42-66, but speedway racing was back. The 1949 Chads team, Harry Welch, Stan Bedford, Alex Gray, George Bason, Charlie Oats, Tom Turnham, Fred Wills and Earnie Steers.
The following year 1950, my Dad took me to see the Chads ride, from then on: I was a speedway fan for life. My young life centred around Monday nights at Stanley when the Chads rode. I would hope and hope on Mondays the weather would be fair and that my Dad would be able to take my brother and me to the track. The Chad team line up for the 1951 season was Peter Robinson, Alf Wester, “Buck” Whitby, Len Read, Reg Duval, Peter Craven, Bill Griffith, George Newton, Harry Welch the Captain. Peter Craven rode for the Chads at the time as reserve and team rider, but he never seemed to be at home on the big Stanley track. Eventually Peter was given a free transfer in 1952 to the Belle Vue Aces, where he became a big star, winning the World Championship twice, 1955 and 1962.
In 1952, the team casualty list reached alarming proportions: almost every rider was on the injured reserve list at one time or another, causing an on-going unbalanced team with strengths and weakness. At the end of the season, the Chads finished second to bottom of the League table, Don Potter, a new signing, proved to be a valued team member achieving a points average of 6.2 over 30 league appearances, top rider again our the team Captain Peter Robinson who averaged 8.4
The 1953 season opened, two Chad riders, Reg Duval and Len Read requested transfers, Reg moved to the Coventry Bees, Len to Ipswich. Replacement riders Tommy Anderson and Cyril Cooper became Chads, the “new look” team Peter Robinson Captain, Tommy Allott, Bill Griffith, Fred Wills, Harry Welch and J Greenwood as reserve. The Chads still in Division Two, the much hoped for, big star rider signing never materialised. Local advertising/promotion of the team was really non-existent, while the local paper, Liverpool Echo, continued to ignore the team and speedway in general.
New Cross speedway closed in 1953, speculation was rife, and Liverpool promoters might sign a number of the ex-New Cross riders. Liverpool would then move up to Division One racing and complete the remaining open New Cross fixtures, never happened.
Suddenly, it was announced in June 1953, the Liverpool team was up for sale, the reason, the track promotion by a London based company, southern Speedway Ltd., the management claimed it was becoming challenging to manage racing in Liverpool from such a long distance in London. The remote track management was probably a contribution factor, to a lack of understanding of the Liverpool market and the local fan base. An investment of 3,900 pound you could become the Liverpool speedway promoter, price included Stanley Stadium lease, Tractors, Rollers, Graders, Brooms, Lights, Starting Gate, Safety fence etc., a complete speedway team, plus juniors.
by Richard Austin
Liverpool 1937 Team
Tom Price, Len Eyre, Stanley Hart, Oliver Hart, Ernie Price. On the bikes Charlie Oats, Eric Blain, Alan Butler.