The Bradford Dukes

1986 - 1997

The World Final 1985
Wembley Stadium was synonymous with the World Speedway Final from its beginning in 1936 until 1960. Even when the final was rotated between European countries, it always returned to its spiritual home of Wembley every third year.

So it was a major shock to the world of speedway when in December 1982 it was announced that, following the signing a new 20-year contact with the Football Association, the World Speedway Final would no longer be held at Wembley. It was believed that the FA felt that the work associated with forming the speedway track every three years was having an adverse effect on the playing surface.

Many people feared for the future of speedway in Britain, as a number of tracks relied on the monies they received from the profits of the World Final to cover their losses. Also, many people were disappointed that the sport was being kicked out of Wembley, after all would the stadium have survived if not for speedway? During the glory days of the sport in the 1930’s, 40’s and early 50’s crowds of 40,000 plus were not unusual at weekly league matches. Indeed, Wembley Speedway had a supporters club with a membership of over 25,000.

The British speedway authorities looked at various alternative venues for the 1985 final which was scheduled to be staged in Britain. It was a major surprise when in June 1984 they announced that Odsal Stadium had been chosen. Bradford Council had agreed various improvements to increase the ground capacity from 26,000 to 40,000, as well as building new shale track to world championship standards - the old track having been tarmaced over by the stock car promoter. Altogether the costs of the works associated with bringing the World Final to Bradford was in the region of £1million. In September 1984 three members of the Belle Vue team, Chris Morton, Peter Collins and Larry Ross, staged a series of demonstration races closely scrutinised by an official of speedways world governing body, the FIM. Following this successful demonstration all was set for the return of speedway to Bradford after a gap of ten years.

Prior to the actual World Final three world championship qualifying meetings were scheduled to be held. The first of these was the World Team Cup qualifier and so on 12th May 1985 for the first time since 1st October 1975 an official speedway meeting was held at Odsal. What should have been a major event in the Odsal’s history was over shadowed by the tragic events at Valley Parade the previous day.

The short season of meetings ended on 31st August when the stadium hosted the 1985 World Speedway Final when a crowd of 37,000 saw the regaining world champion Erik Gundersen from Denmark retain his title.

From the time it was announced that the World Final was to be staged at Odsal there were strong rumours that the nearby Halifax Dukes would moved from The Shay to Odsal. At the time they were denied by the Halifax promoter Eric Boothroyd, but in early 1986 Boothroyd announced that the Halifax Dukes were to become the Bradford Dukes. In a later magazine article Boothroyd explained that the move to Odsal was too good to turn down. At The Shay the Dukes were paying Halifax Town AFC a rent of £30,000 per year and were also faced with a similar amount to move a floodlight pylon on the first bend to comply with safely requirements. However, at Odsal they were welcomed with open arms by Bradford Council, who let the Dukes run rent free for the first three years.