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Dugard's fears over speedway's online experiment
Eastbourne boss Bob Dugard will urge Elite League bosses to pull the plug on online streaming of Elite League meetings – unless there is a promise of extra income.
Dugard is concerned about top-flight racing being streamed free of charge to punters via bet365.com.
Clubs will meet next week to discuss burning issues and coverage of meetings on the betting website will promote lively debate.
Fixtures have been streamed on an experimental basis so far this season and can be watched for free by anyone who has deposited funds in an account at the Bet365 website.
Although the coverage is basic, filmed by one camera and with no commentary, Dugard is concerned it is another factor to keep people from paying their money and attending meetings in person.
There is no fee for the clubs involved in any of the live meetings.
Dugard said: “We have either got a business deal or we haven't.
“If they want to do what they have been doing they have got to be prepared to speculate some money.
“We don't know anything about what their intentions are.
“Every night of the week they are at some track or other and the BSPA have agreed to let them do it.”
Gospeed, the company entrusted with negotiating TV deals for the league, allowed Attheraces free access to meetings on a trial basis.
Having established the sport’s value to bookies, the league would then look to profit from selling rights to Attheraces, which is part owned by Sky.
There would also be the fringe benefit of added exposure for the league.
It is understood Dugard’s concerns are shared by some other club promoters.
But there is a counter-argument that the current trial can be an investment.
Many involved in the league still remember paying Sky Sports to televise their meetings in the early days of coverage.
That led to a deal whereby Sky now pay the Elite League to show live meetings.
The TV contract, which was renewed last winter, is seen as a lifeline for several tracks, including Eastbourne.
Meanwhile Sky have watched bookmakers cash in on televised events.
They are keen to make money from punters who are possibly only betting because they are watching the event live on Sky.
One modification which could be proposed when clubs meet is that fans are not told in advance which meetings will be streamed.
Promoters could also suggest a minimum bet is applied to each meeting.
Currently fans can deposit a small amount with Bet365, £5 for example, and watch unlimited streams without ever making a bet.
Promoters are confident live presence at their meetings should be seen as preferable to watching very basic coverage on a computer screen.
But the fact the races can be seen online could be a factor for any fan who, for example, is already weighing up whether to go to speedway or stay in and watch the World Cup on television.
As a keen armchair sports fan, as well as the man who pays the bills for Eastbourne, Dugard can see both sides of the argument.
He said: “I'm sure it has an impact on attendances.
“I watch it pretty much every night of the week!
“We need a deal in place and I think it has got to match the sort of money we get from Sky TV.
“Then I would have an interest in it.”
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