Friday 13 December 2019

In response to a growing number of challenges faced by the sport, a new economic model is being implemented by Motorsport UK that will bring new investment and a much brighter future.

As technologies evolve quickly and social attitudes shift even faster, the motorsport sector in this country is changing right before our eyes. In response, Motorsport UK is already taking decisive action: a comprehensive rethink of the economic model at its very core is just the latest in a long line of far-reaching measures designed to safeguard the future of our sport.

“It became clear we needed a massive change of approach,” says Motorsport UK CEO Hugh Chambers. “We reviewed the sport from its grass roots to the elite level and found that small tweaks and minor adjustments just weren’t going to cut it any longer. That’s why we’re making significant changes. We’ve already rethought the role of Motorsport UK, positioning it as a promoter of the sport and a member-focussed body so it’s no longer a traditional sports governance type organisation. What comes next is a complete overhaul of the way motorsport is funded in the UK and can invest back into securing its future”.

With every passing year, the challenges that motorsport must stand up to multiply in their number and swell in their size. From the highest level to its grass roots, the sport is becoming less visible to the wider public. As a case in point, Formula One is no longer televised live free-to-air in the UK, save for the British GP. Meanwhile, environmental pressures must be addressed with some urgency, particularly as the role of the car in society changes. The list of challenges is long and doesn’t end with the lack of diversity throughout the sport, nor the ever-increasing competition for a share of people’s leisure time. A bell weather is the steady decline in the number of competition licence holders there are in the UK, a trend that stretches over a decade.

“As things stand, there aren’t enough new people coming into the sport,” comments Chambers. “In fact, the declining membership is the most acute threat the sport faces today; with fewer licence holders our ability to invest in the sport has been slipping. We’re taking decisive action to arrest that decline and we’ve seen encouraging results already. The consequences of sittingback and doing nothing would have been catastrophic.”

It is only with fresh investment, the likes of which motorsport in the UK hasn’t known before, that the future of the sector can be secured. Only with better resources can the sport can be promoted more visibly to members of the public, encouraging their participation. Only with greater financial security can the 720 motor clubs that form the backbone of motorsport in the UK be given the tools they need to grow their membership rosters and promote their events. It will take new investment to elevate the standard of development and learning
among competitors, marshals and officials in the UK. What’s more, Motorsport UK’s new economic model will underpin innovation and development in the sport, particularly as propulsion technologies within the wider automotive sector evolve ever more rapidly.

“We’re making these changes following careful consultation with members and clubs,” says Chambers. “We’ve identified a number of external sources from which we can generate the income we need to make this investment. Longer term, we’re designing a model where our members will not need to carry the full burden. Instead, we’re operating in a more
commercially-minded way. For instance, we’ll offer new types of membership, particularly for enthusiasts who want to be a part of the sport but who don’t compete themselves. We’re calling that membership tier Trackside Fans. There are plans for other innovations in membership groups, with the governing body embracing the full spectrum of car enthusiasts, not just those defined by the traditional parameters. Beyond that we’re offering our services on a consultation basis to motor racing events internationally, as well as securing sponsorship income through partnerships with third party brands.

“All of this new income will be used to supplement revenue from competition permits and licences. We will be attacking the hidden costs of motorsport, and have done so already with items such as the life span of seats and seat belts. For 2020, we’ve scrapped the need for competitors aged between 45 and 59, in circuit racing, to get annual medical checks, saving each person around £100 a year. Additionally, the permit and licence structure has been simplified, making it fairer across the board and the sport itself more accessible.”

One of the key ways in which Motorsport UK’s membership base can be made to grow, says Chambers, is by encouraging participation at a grass roots level. “We need to expand our universe of members and get new licence holders hooked on the excitement of motorsport,” he comments. “We’re already doing this with taster days, such as Motorsport Days LIVE at Silverstone this month, which was a fantastic example of an initiative that got people behind the wheel of a car on circuit. We’re now looking at taking the underlying concept behind that and working with clubs, championships and venues to give even more people an opportunity to sample motorsport first hand.

“What’s encouraging is that entrylevel motorsport in this country is varied and vibrant already. Autosolo, for instance, is the perfect way to start out. I competed at an autosolo event this year in a standard Suzuki Swift road car. It cost £40 to enter, I didn’t need a helmet or any specialist equipment and I had a brilliant day enjoying the thrill of motorsport. In many
ways we have the motorsport products in place – we just need to do a better job of promoting them to the average man in the street and girl in the classroom who have no idea they even exist.”

Motorsport UK’s new investment strategy will play out over five years. Come the end of 2024, what will the motorsport scene in this country look like? “We’ll have a bigger
community of members,” says Chambers, “and it’ll be more diverse. It will embrace many other areas of motorsport enthusiasm, not being limited to licence holders competing on permitted events any longer. The age profile among our membership will be younger. We will have the best education and training programmes in the world, plus a volunteer workforce that feels valued and supported. The sport will evolve in harmony with new technologies and changing social attitudes, rather than fighting against them.

Competing in this country will be safe, fun and fair. But most importantly, as a result of this new investment strategy the future of motorsport in the UK will have been secured.”