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George Dodds's picture

For reasons I never totally understood a number of PE teachers and coaches decided in my younger years that I would make a good captain of rugby teams ranging from Tweedmouth Middle School to Gidea Park and Romford thirds.
The selection surely had less to do with playing ability – although I was always so slow that there was no loss of pace as I grew older – and more with my communication skills.
Even in my teens I was happy to chat with referees, taking every opportunity to remind them that the rules of rugby union in particular were so complicated that it was inconceivable that anyone – even someone of their gargantuan intelligence and monumental commonsense – to know what was going on the pitch for 80 minutes.
No worries, I was always willing to help them make their decisions and make sure that they got it right, not forgetting to keep an eye on the opposition who – unlike my lilywhite team-mates – always seemed to be trying to bend the rules and consequently make a fool of the man in the middle.
Watch any televised sport and it will soon become apparent that, despite the crowd chants aimed at the referee, it’s actually usually the players that don’t know what they are doing!
Never mind teaching your wife about football’s offside rule – it would be a good idea if those playing the game and then retiring and earning a good living as a tv or radio pundit had even the remotest grasp of what the laws of the game are.
Which was how my phone came to be buzzing away on Monday night as Belle Vue and Swindon lined up at the National Speedway Stadium in Manchester.
First Max Fricke then Zak Wajtnecht and then Tobias Musielak became victims of one of this year’s new rules.
In an effort to speed up the gap between races riders must now “remain astride their machines” as they kick up a storm at the starting gate.
However, in Monday’s Charity Shield season opener the terrible trio couldn’t resist the temptation to hop off and join the startline gardening disco boogie.
As one of my shivering former colleagues in the Belle Vue main stand texted: "a rule designed to speed things up leads to a longer delay because all three transgressors then chose to go off a 15 metre handicap.
For one to err was careless; three began to look like stupidity.
Fricke’s admission in a pits interview that all the riders had been reminded of the rule change minutes before the meeting started and he had “forgotten” apparently produced much groaning, tutting and head shaking among the assembled masses.
Perhaps we should introduce a new role for our startline staff – a board that says “Please stay seated throughout the procedure” to help those riders that may be just that little harder of thinking than some.
Anyway it’s just one more thing for the Bandits’ bosses and management to cope with as the finishing touches are applied to the 51st season of speedway in Berwick.
We are now just seven days away from press and practice and nine from opening night against, as it was way back in 1968, the mighty Newcastle Diamonds.
In a show of solidarity with messrs Fricke, Wajtnecht and Musielak I will refuse to garden from any position other than seated between now and the end of October.