FORMER Swindon Robins promoter and team manager Ron Byford (1987-1992) passed away peacefully last Friday morning at home in west Swindon just ten days before his 85th birthday.

He had been treated and spent several long periods in hospital suffering from a blood related illness.

Byford hailed from Chiswick, west London, and cut his teeth early on the vibrant speedway scene in the capital.

He was a Wimbledon fan in the early days, his father used to take him to meetings there at Plough Lane before the Second World War.

However, Byford also enjoyed going to new Cross to watch the Rangers as his favourite rider, Ron Johnson, rode for the south London club.

After the war Byford also took a keen interest in the London cycle speedway scene and rode for Chiswick Comets.

He swapped the London speedway scene in 1967 in order to relocate from west Moseley, Surrey, together with wife Joan and his young family Tracy and Barry to start a new life in Swindon.

Thus began an association and passion with Swindon Robins Speedway and Swindon Monarchs Cycle Speedway Club that lasted until his death.

Two days after moving to Swindon, Byford was on the terraces at the Abbey Stadium, Blunsdon to witness Robins defeat Coventry on aggregate 88-68 and lift the Midland Cup - the first part of a glorious 1967 cup and league double that season.

It was the youngsters at the Oasis-based cycle speedway track and junior speedway riders at Blunsdon that Byford backed firstly.

He held many positions at the Monarchs cycle speedway club including chairman, secretary, and team manager after initially starting with help in the sponsorship field through his employers Motorway Tyres.

Byford and secretary Bert Page well and truly put Swindon on the national cycle speedway map at the start of the 1980s.

Together with club officials and helpers they built a track and staged an indoor meeting at the Oasis Leisure Centre- the first indoor meeting to be held in Britain for over 30 years and in 1981 staged the British Indoor Cycle Speedway Championship for the first-time in over 30 years.

It was backed by the Daily Mirror newspaper and televised live on a Saturday afternoon on ITV World of Sport.

On the speedway front Byford was part of the group of Swindon enthusiasts in the early 1980s who were bonded together by Blunsdon speedway clerk of the course Ray Morse to form the highly successful Swindon Speedway Junior Club.

They formed a committee and raised funds to encourage young talent.

They held numerous fund-raising schemes to finance junior second-half racing and the Swindon Sprockets in their quest for junior league titles and won the Central Junior League with Steve Bishop winning the individual crown.

And in October 1982 Sprockets tracked a full-seven-man side that beat the cream of the Central Junior League 46-32.

This led to Byford being asked to go and help out at Exeter who were struggling. Firstly he team managed the Falcons juniors to the National Junior Speedway title in 1984 beating Ipswich in the final.

And he stepped up to team manage the Falcons senior team in the 1985 and 86 seasons and thoroughly enjoyed his time there.

He was asked by Ted Nelson and Bill Chandler to return to Blunsdon and join them in the Robins new promotion for the 1987 season and become team manager as well.

Thus began a turbulent six years of speedway at Blunsdon that resulted at the end of the 1992 season in Swindon being relegated from the First Division to Division 2 and stadium owners ADT selling the speedway rights to Betterment Properties (Leisure Activities Ltd) led by Poole promoters Mervyn Stewkesbury and Peter Ansell.

Although Byford lost his job of promoter/team manager he was able to look back on some satisfactory highlights and still be held in high esteem in the speedway hierarchy.

He signed Blunsdon crowd entertainer Andrew Silver and Robins Legend Leigh Adams from Poole in 1990.

Byford helped and assisted on several riders testimonial meetings such as Bob Kilby and Phil Crump and was a regular in the Legends Lounge until the end of last season.

I have lost a very good friend and someone I used to meet and go out with for a lunchtime meal regularly ...... RIP Ron.