CEO’s April Message – Hugh Chambers
I very much hope that everyone is managing to stay safe and in good health in these most difficult times. But we understand there may have been some personal tragedy and our thoughts are with anyone affected in such a way.
I would also like to thank all in motorsport who are doing so much to help in this battle against the Coronavirus – from the engineers providing innovative solutions to the equipment shortages, to our own community members now fighting on the medical front line and volunteering in so many ways. We all owe you a great debt of gratitude. For it is community that lies at the heart of sport. Despite the inherently competitive nature of the activity, there is a collective mission and shared passion that draws people together.
Motorsport is especially demanding on resources, human and otherwise, to even exist. And it is the convergence of so many elements, from the marshals, officials, volunteers, competitors, mechanics and support teams that week in week out work together, help each other out when things go wrong (and go right) and often make life-long friendships.
At the centre of all of this is the club. Motorsport revolves around our 720 clubs, and it is that infrastructure that allows our 45,000 drivers to compete and do so in a safe, fair and fun way. Each year we issue around 4,500 event permits, which start to crystalise in November and December of the year before. Gradually clubs begin to populate the calendar with old favourites and new creations. With eleven disciplines, both on road and off, at fixed venues and temporary, on closed roads and open hillsides, our playing field is varied in the extreme – and it is the expertise that sits in our clubs that know how to organise and manage events effectively.
I joined my first club in 1972, what was the Solihull and Shenington Kart Club, and that transformed my teenage life. I well remember the family atmosphere and camaraderie especially on a freezing morning in January for the monthly club meeting when everyone went around the track with spades to chip the ice off the tarmac! And when I get the chance to visit the same club now, there still remain some familiar faces that have been stalwarts of the club for decades.
That little story is repeated round the country time and time again. And that is the reason that we have created the Club Continuity Fund to support our clubs through this desperate Coronavirus crisis. The provision of £1 million, for a mixture of grants and interest free loans, is there to ensure that our clubs can manage to survive the economic impact from the suspension of all motorsport, and the overall effects that the crisis has on society.
“Our mission is to influence our government and lobby hard for the case that motorsport should be able to resume as quickly as possible”
The crucial thing is that we can come back from this terrible period with renewed energy and with the structures that can create events swiftly and effectively. Full details of the Club Continuity Fund are on page 24. For our own part as the governing body, Motorsport UK responded swiftly to the growing pandemic. We have furloughed a third of our staff and reduced all other staff salaries. We have taken all of the appropriate measures to freeze our expenditure until further notice and put on hold major projects including the planned move to Bicester. With only a fraction of our annual revenue achieved it is a time to batten down the hatches, and preserve our resources carefully, so that we may emerge in good shape to foster the renewal of motorsport.
But at the same time, we are committed to providing as full a range of services to our members as possible, with the remaining staff working from home and connected through Zoom and Microsoft Teams conferencing and remote working environments. If nothing else, I think we have all learnt some better ways of working and proven that it is not always essential to meet physically to have the communal exchanges of ideas and debate on a full agenda of items. Most committees have been meeting remotely and doing really valuable work. Some of the important initiatives in the past month include the launch of the Learning Hub for Officials, and then a couple of weeks later for Clubs with modules on Event Stewarding, Safeguarding Awareness and Electric Vehicles.
Additional materials will follow to cover guidance for Secretary of the Meeting, and an on-line version of the Club and Event Officials Seminars which were held at the start of the year but cut short by the Coronavirus issue. We will upload new “How to guides” for clubs at the same time, and some Competitor modules and videos by the end of the month.
Motorsport UK hosted three “COVID-19 Club Survival” Webinars attended by representatives of clubs from across the country, we are planning further one-hour webinars, as well as longer format in-depth club planning workshops with a range of panellists to support our clubs through this period of Motorsport suspension.
Other initiatives include:
- Creation of COVID-19 resource centre with signposting to latest government advice, with Q&As and resource links
- Tailored Member Benefits: focus on member benefits that can be accessed at home or help while away the hours from home
- Launched Esports competitions with the British Kart Championships and the British Rally Championship
- Engaged with our community via initiatives such as the new Weekly Quiz on Facebook
- Launched the #StayOnTrackChallenge with the Motorsport UK Academy members plus members of the motorsport community
But what everyone wants to know is when we can resume motorsport?
The simple answer is that we have to follow government policy and guidelines, as this will dictate what we can and cannot do. However, our mission is to influence our government and lobby hard for the case that motorsport should be able to resume as quickly as possible.
To do that we are working closely with the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and with them developing a policy for the criteria by which a sport may start to be active. Some of these are generic, and some will be very specific to us. We are drawing up guidelines by individual disciplines to see what measures of safety can be taken according to the nature of the competition.
One of the largest debates is on ‘closed doors’ competition, which for 95% of our events is not an issue as they are not reliant on spectators to fund the activity. But challenges lie ahead, including the essential work of the medical community and the emergency services. Although our support teams are volunteers, we cannot place any pressure on the national infrastructure or be seen to do so. But please be assured we are doing all that we can to get us running again.
Please stay safe and keep well in these difficult times.
Kind regards, Hugh Chambers CEO, Motorsport UK