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The very busy design shown on the left is the cover used on the programmes at Reading Smallmead Stadium in 1995. In case that has sent your head into a spin there is a calmer photograph of the Smallmead track below, taken I believe in December 1968.

Although the Reading Racers did not originate at this venue they have been here for by far the longer period, arriving in 1975 due in no small part to the persistence of Reg Fearman who was the Racers promoter, and following the closure of their home at Tilehurst moved heaven and earth and possibly a good deal of rubbish as the new track at Smallmead was built of what was once the Corporation rubbish tip.

It had been expected that the track would open in 1974 with a team entered in the British League Division One but the construction was not completed in time and the Reading Racers had to take an enforced sabbatical their opening meeting taking place 28 April 1975 where the Racers beat Hull in front of 10,000 spectators no doubt delighted to see the sport return to the area after a year with no speedway available.

The Reg Fearman, Bill Dore, Frank Higley and Len Silver consortium of promoters who had been guiding speedway at the Smallmead Stadium changed in 1980 with Dave Lanning replacing Reg Fearman and taking up the main responsibility as speedway executive and Bill Dore’s daughter, Pat Bliss joined the promotional team.

1981 saw Dave Lanning move on and that left the rest of the promotional team, Bill Dore with daughter Pat co-promoting with Frank Higley, all three taking a more active role in the running of the speedway team. 1987 and the team changed again this time Mr Dore and daughter stayed but Frank Higley stepping down and being replaced by Brian Leonard. By 1988 however Mr Leonard had gone and the promotion rested in the hands of Bill Dore and daughter Pat Bliss.

In 1991 Reading like everyone else in speedway was effected by the amalgamation of the leagues that meant Reading was to be racing in the British League Division One followed by another change four years later when all speedway teams then competing were to placed in the one league to be called the Premier and this league was now 21 teams strong.

Reading also entered a second team known as the Ravens in the Conference League for just one year, 1996, and in 1997 a team called M4 Raven Sprockets (honest) were entered in the Amateur League, the Sprockets were a combined team with members from both Reading and Swindon tracks but they raced out of Reading.

Another change in the league setup in 1997 the Premier league splitting into two once again the top league becoming the Elite and populated in the most part by riders who also rode at the same time in Europe and could command a high rate of pay plus travelling and accommodation expenses for them and their travelling mechanic, the other section of the split retained the name of Premier. Reading chose to join the Premier League as it was felt that with falling spectator numbers the costs involved in being in the Elite League may be prohibitive.

The end of the 1998 season brought great sadness to all at Smallmead when the long term co-promoter Bill Dore died at the age of 76.

At the start of the following season Pat Bliss was the sole promoter and remained as such until 2003 when she was joined by Chris Shears, they continued in tandem until 2005 when Mrs Bliss completed a deal with Benfield Sports International in November meaning she ended 25 years of association with the Reading Racers Stadium. The new management was installed the chief executive being John Postlethwaite with the co-promoter Jim Lynch. Now people expect new brooms to sweep clean and I would think many were pleased when the new promotion announced immediately that the Racers would be in the Elite League the following season but never in their wildest dreams (or nightmares) did they expect the announcement that came in January of the following year - the Reading Races would now be known as the Reading Bulldogs, all to do with marketing initiative and wider audience it was explained.

The Reading team was competing in the Elite League in 2006 and 2007 but moved back to the Premier League in 2008 - the name Bulldogs seems to have lasted for just one season. The lease ran out in 2008 and was not renewed.



Reading Speedway at Smallmead Stadium

With thanks to John Jarvis  for permission to use data and information from his book Homes of British Speedway and John Somerville for the images.

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