Belfast Telegraph

Our boys are now being priced out of sport they love

Double World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea is currently riding the crest of a wave and begins the defence of his crown in Australia at the end of this month.

Sadly, some of his fellow Ulstermen are struggling to catch their own respective waves, with 17-time International North West 200 winner Alastair Seeley the biggest name in a large group of local riders currently grappling to find gainful employment for the upcoming season.

Seeley, a double British champion, could be joined in the racing dole queue by current Irish Superbike champion Nikki Coates, 2015 British Superstock king Josh Elliott and British Supersport race winner Andy Reid.

With under four weeks until the British Championship paddock begins testing at various venues across Spain and the UK, the aforementioned riders are now considering nine-to-five employment in various roles from mechanic to full-time tattoo artist.

Quite simply, the question must now be asked - why?

Reid is one of the most gregarious characters in the sport, and the Jordanstown ace is also one of the most articulate. He's a marketable product in many ways, none more so than being a British Supersport Championship race winner, but he is now considering a full-time career in the tattoo profession.

"The (British Championship) organisers need to reinvest, not just in the leading riders like Shakey Byrne (the current five-time British Superbike champion) but also in the stars of the future that maybe don't have rich parents or sponsors to buy them rides, which is exactly what is currently happening - freezing out more talented working class riders who are at a disadvantage because of their lack of funding," Reid said.

The biggest name seeking employment is Carrick ace Seeley, who became the stand-alone record holder at the North West 200 last May. Despite his 17 career wins and two British Championship titles, he too, like Reid, is being asked "how much budget can you bring?"

"Things have changed in 2017 and a lot of people have short memories," said Seeley, showing an understandable level of frustration. "I've been competitive in the British Championship for eight years yet I'm being asked how much budget I can bring, and to be honest I don't have the budget they are asking (£40,000 to £60,000).

"In truth I've one option in British Supersport and if that doesn't come off, then it's back to filling in job applications and looking to see if anyone can provide me with a competitive bike to go race in the Irish Superbike series."

Coates is another struggling to seal a ride. The Antrim man won last year's Irish Superbike title and but for an offer of a ride in the Spanish Superbike Championship, at a cost of €10,000 per round, he too will join Seeley and co on the sidelines.

Without fear or favour, the truth is that our local governing body did little to help our current World champion Rea reach his current destination, but they could help the next generation. It's difficult to listen with your fingers planted firmly in your ears, however.

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