The recent decision by the MSA to not run the British Rally Championship in 2015 beggars belief. It is totally irrational and, we believe, has been made by people who are ‘out of touch’ with the realities of organising major national rallies.
What is more, the manner of the announcement showed total disregard for the existing events: a carefully-orchestrated PR campaign through the pages of Motorsport News and on iRally radio, with no effort made by the MSA to contact existing event organisers to explain the reasoning in detail.
The MSA says it wants “a clean sheet of paper to work with” rather than work with “what is already in place”. From the countless messages Southern Car Club (SCC) has received in recent days, we are only too aware of the incalculable damage done to the morale of all BRC organising clubs and their volunteers, not trusted enough by their ruling body to be part of the decision-making process . . . yet charged with risking their club’s and their members’ money to run an MSA championship round this year. How hypocritical is that?
This decision has far-reaching implications, which seem not to have been considered. Take the commercial relationships each event has with local authorities, landowners, the Forestry Commission, host towns and their tourism stakeholders. The BRC brings considerable value to the communities in which it is staged – research shows between £1.25 to £2.75 million from each event into the local economy – but that is not a one-way street; events work in trusted partnership with those communities, something now under threat if events have no clear path for the future.
Our own event, known for many years as Rallye Sunseeker, is on the verge of signing a first-time sponsor for motor sport, in conjunction with our rebrand as Rallye Dorset. A multi-year deal worth many thousands of pounds is now in jeopardy: with no BRC in 2015 and no guarantee which events will form the “new” 2016 Championship, the MSA’s unilateral decision has effectively made it impossible to proceed with this deal.
This astonishing decision has shaken our organising team to the core. We believe this move may have sounded the death knell of arguably one of the best organised, promoted and funded events in the UK – not just in the future, but for this year as well. No new sponsor means no budget, which may well mean no Rallye Dorset 2014.
Our Club will be taking stock after members have finished running the Rally Stage at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and making a decision within seven days, after consulting our stakeholders – something the MSA failed to do.
Event Director and Vice President of Southern Car Club, Rick Smith said: “Over the years the MSA has been accused in some quarters of being out of touch and of making irrational decisions – generally, I have not been of that viewpoint. Being an MSA International Clerk of the Course, as well as a senior MSA Steward, I have seen how much good the MSA has done for our sport.
“However, I am baffled as to how this decision could possibly have been reached, without any consultation with those in charge of current BRC events – my senior officials and the Club have been treated shabbily by those supposed to work to our benefit.
“We read that the MSA spoke to lots of people in the sport – they certainly didn’t talk to SCC officials or, to my knowledge, any of the other BRC event organisers – so how can they possibly know what we believe is needed?”
Having witnessed the falling levels of entries and spectators on BRC rounds at first hand, event organisers appreciate, more than anyone, that changes to the current structure of the BRC are needed. Maybe a move back to four-wheel-drive is the answer? Maybe it is to allow non-homologated cars to challenge for overall honours? Maybe it is a complete adoption of the FIA’s R1 to R5 structure?
It isn’t making long-term changes to the sport that we object to, rather the manner in which the decision to conduct a long, drawn-out review was made – and announced – with total disregard for the potentially devastating consequences. What is more worrying is that we are told the MSA was given the opportunity to work in tandem with Mark Taylor at Rally UK and the existing events in 2015, to build a better future. The MSA turned it down, electing to preside over a culling of events – for that is how we see this. In our view the MSA Board should meet without delay, and reconsider this lamentable decision, because we have to believe that those board members were not in full possession of the facts when they voted for this!
Issued by Southern Car Club Limited