CEO’s May Message – Hugh Chambers
A little over two months ago motorsport in the UK, and worldwide, ground to a halt. I don’t know about you, but for me it feels a lifetime ago. In that time, everything that we had taken for granted in our daily lives has been thrown up in the air and reframed through the lens of COVID-19. It has often been said that the British character is at its strongest when backs are against the wall, and I think that our national spirit is best symbolised by Captain Tom Moore (shortly to be Sir Tom), who it turns out is a lifelong motorsport fan and has been for seventy years! But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Tom would connect with motorsport, for our sport exhibits the same spirit of ‘can-do’ and innovation that he symbolises.
Our community is resilient and passionate, and we will re-emerge from the crisis stronger and more determined than ever. As the prevalence of the disease begins to wane, if not its social and economic impact, so everyone’s attention is drawn to the resumption of normal life. I think that there is a broad acceptance that we are not simply going to be able to go back to the way things were before, and there will be a redefining of what exactly normal looks like. And motorsport is no different. We are all going to have to work together to get back on track, while adopting new ways of operating and behaving. But there is no doubt at all that the very nature of motorsport means that we will find solutions, and we will be able to enjoy the sport which we all are so passionate about.
Much of motorsport as we know it is a purely amateur activity, with a small number of professional drivers, but that hobby level sport is reliant on a vast network of people and businesses for whom motorsport is their livelihood. Whether it is component manufacturers, circuit owners, teams, technicians or the people running the canteen at Brands Hatch – they all earn a living from the sport. Overall the sport employs around 40,000 people and has a contribution to the economy of some £10 billion. Motorsport UK has a responsibility to get the sport running again, not just for our collective enjoyment, but for the sake of these people who may be facing a bleak future. It is our absolute priority to get motorsport restarted in the UK as quickly as we can. But of course, there is a huge caveat to that simple statement, in that we can only do so when it is safe and appropriate. The overarching framework we need to operate within is dictated by the government, for the restrictions we face are not just advisory measures, but laws of the land and we must respect that fact.
“Our community is resilient and passionate, and we will re-emerge from the crisis stronger and more determined than ever”
But we don’t take all this at face value and assume the worst, in fact the contrary is true. I am really proud of the work that we have done in lobbying government (the Department for Culture, Media and Sport) and making a case, not just for our sport, but all sports, for how we can resume activity. I don’t envy the government in trying to strike the right balance between keeping society safe (and primarily our extraordinary NHS, care home and support workers) alongside reigniting the economy. But our job as Motorsport UK is to make our case and make it loudly so that we are heard amongst the overwhelming pressure from all of society seeking their own resolutions from Whitehall. I think we have achieved that well with the work we have published this week on our website. The ‘Getting Back on Track’ programme has been the work of dozens of people, across the whole spectrum of the sport, working tirelessly to produce our own road map. Whether it is Jonathan Palmer using his vast experience with racing venues, or our CMO Dr Paul Trafford, or members of our legal team, representatives from all eleven sport disciplines, they have all deployed their experience in documenting how we can restart motorsport.
The FIA has commended the UK on the lead we have taken with this and we were invited to present the contents of our plan via a webinar to over 150 countries worldwide. But one thing we need to be very clear about is that this is not a blueprint, it is strictly a guideline for all of our stakeholders.
The execution of the guidelines is something that event organisers, venue owners, officials and competitors are all going to need to adapt and adopt to their own very specific situations. Ultimately the rules and regulations of the sport are set out in the Blue Book, and we need to adhere to them, but with a new execution. We know that there is no precedent for what is happening, and we all have to react according to the best information we have at the time.
“I am really proud of the work that we have done in lobbying government and making a case, not just for our sport, but all sports, for how we can resume activity”
So, this work is not set in stone, it will evolve and respond, in main, to the government’s approach and laws. And that is why we need your help. Everyone needs to embrace this phase in the spirit of collaboration and seeking the art of the possible. We need to work together to find solutions, not sit on the sidelines and complain that something doesn’t work – we need your help in figuring out a better way for initiatives that maybe in practice are a little flawed.
Please give us your feedback and ideas, they are always welcome. I mentioned the huge army of people who fuel the infrastructure of motorsport as their livelihoods – but we are also massively dependent on an equally important group who do this on a purely voluntary basis, whether it is the medics and emergency teams, marshals and officials, or the legion of helpers and spanner men and women that populate every event we run. And the glue for much of that is our club network, with over 700 across the UK.
As we announced last month, we have set up a Continuity Fund of £1m for the specific purpose of ensuring that this critical infrastructure does not fail. We need to be certain we have the resource and capability to restart when the time is right. We have already begun to make awards, and we welcome applications from those that are facing real difficulties.
Finally, I would like to end with a specific thank you to all of the members of our community that work in the NHS, in care roles and support for health in our society. You are simply amazing in what you are doing, and we are immensely grateful. Thank you, be safe and let’s get racing and rallying again soon.
CEO, Motorsport UK