Brian Osborn RIP
SCUNTHORPE SPEEDWAY has been saddened to learn of the passing of former promoter Brian Osborn at the age of 75. The Welshman lived around the Ipswich area for most of his life.
Brian was a Scunthorpe rider in the very early days of the club at Quibell Park and made 18 appearances for the Saints in British League Division Two in 1972.
In an interview from 2012, he revealed: “I got injured riding at Quibell Park. Ivor Brown and Vic White were the promoters, and Ivor persuaded me to be the team manager. I enjoyed that – it was much easier telling people what to do rather than doing it yourself!
“Ivor was already getting a bit fed up. He wasn’t making any money from it, so I was talked into taking over as the promoter.”
Brian took over as promoter in 1973, and pulled off a coup when he persuaded legendary Scot Ken McKinlay, a former World No. 5, to ride for the Saints, two weeks short of his 45th birthday!
He recalled: “Ray Watkins smashed his thigh prior to the start of the season and it left us dreadfully weak.
“We needed a superstar and Ken was available. He said ‘yes’ a little half-heartedly, simply because I don’t think he really wanted to drop down to the second division.
“Ken piled on the points, and was great with the other riders. He would tell them: ‘You’ve got to gate out of the gate first. If you do that, you’ve got every chance of winning’.”
Quibell Park also staged athletics and Brian explained the difficulties of combining the two.
“The track needed a lot of work on it every week. We had to tyre pack it to get it hard enough.
“The athletics people wanted the track for themselves – they didn’t want speedway there. But before the speedway went there, the athletics track was in decay and underused.
“They used to get around six people to watch the athletics training. For those six people, we had to take down and put up the safety fence every week!
“We had problems in getting rid of water on wet days, because the circuit was almost flat. The water would just lay on the track, it didn’t drain.”
The clashes with the athletics people eventually led to Osborn and new promoting partner, Ted Hornsby, looking for a new venue. Eventually they were allocated a piece of land by the council – and work started on Ashby Ville.
Brian admitted: “I didn’t really want to move. I realised from the off that it was probably financial suicide.
“I was up at the Ashby Ville site every day for seven months from around 8am to 9-10pm. I can’t even start to measure the number of man hours we put into building the place.”
The renamed Scunthorpe Stags moved into Ashby Ville during a highly problematic 1979 season.
Brian recalled: “The Control Board were on my back, telling me we had to run. They said: ‘You will run or you will lose your license.’ Taking a year out wasn’t an option.
“It was a very difficult year financially. I was losing money hand over fist.
“The stadium wasn’t what I wanted. It needed a grandstand and bar. We looked into it and priced it up, and we couldn’t afford it.”
Brian left the club in mid-1981, selling his shares to Ted Hornsby and Richard Judge.
“We had a big barney and I got out. I’d had enough.
“I spent ten years as promoter of the club. I love the people of Scunthorpe. They took me to my heart, and I made a lot of friends in the town.”
Scunthorpe Stags closed in 1985, before current promoter Rob Godfrey resurrected the club at the Eddie Wright Raceway in Normanby Road in 2005.
Godfrey says: “It’s fair to say that if it hadn’t been for Brian’s persistence in keeping speedway going in Scunny throughout the 70s and into the early 80s, none of us would be here today, so the club owes him a big debt of gratitude.”
PHOTO: 1973 Scunthorpe Saints. Brian is on the far right.