Changing to race mode

The numbers

It seems that there are close to 33,000 Competition Licence Holders. This of course, doesn’t include all those competitors in disciplines where a competition licence isn’t required, such as Land Rover trails, for example. So, is this number on the climb or decline?

Simon, to his credit, didn’t beat about the bush. That total number hasn’t changed in a meaningful way for a long time, he told me. It has been static virtually throughout the past thirteen or fourteen years. This information begged the question about what is now being done to grow our sport? After all, other sports are dramatically in growth mode, cycling being one of them as well as football, rugby and speedway to name just a few.

This was the moment I was heading towards. Simon’s reply would tell me whether it was going to be more of the same at Colnbrook, or had he brought with him a hunger for change, in line with his previous career? Would it be a change from Comfort Mode to Sports Mode?

Many people would have fudged an answer, but this wasn’t the case in this instance. I saw the enthusiasm growing as Simon explained that a comprehensive MSA strategic review was well under way and would almost certainly signal the need for some major changes to ensure the future growth and development of the sport. At this stage, understandably, he wasn’t prepared to provide too much detail. However, he made it clear that it wasn’t only about possibly finding ways of increasing the number of Competition Licence Holders. That probably wasn’t the best way of measuring growth. Setting a target of an annual 2% increase, for example, would quickly become unsustainable. Areas such as gender balance are important, with only 7% of Licence Holders being female, how do we increase that, he asked? How do we develop more contact with club members, volunteers and so forth? Agreeing on how we define, target and measure growth is fundamental.

I have a gut feeling that in Simon Blunt we are fortunate to have someone who is genuinely trying to find the ways to make a positive difference for the MSA’s customers (that word again).

I asked him if it was too easy for OEM’s to “buy” a new series or championship. Shouldn’t there be far more control over the number of championships? Simon wouldn’t be drawn too far along that avenue of thought. Maybe it’s the subject of another article?

To be fair

Time was running out, but there was one more aspect of the MSA’s role that I wanted to touch on with Simon whilst I had the chance. If you’ve read my column before you’ll know what’s coming!

Simon, do you see it as the responsibility of the MSA to tackle the increasing problem of the playing field in motorsport becoming less and less “level”. In other words, what is the MSA doing to help young drivers progress on the basis of talent rather than on the increasingly important access to the often obscene amounts of financial backing available to them? Usually, I added, from family funds.

For the first time, Simon went on the defensive. He pointed out that you can’t expect the MSA to stop drivers being successful because they have wealthy mothers and fathers. I wholeheartedly agreed with him on that opinion, but went on to ask what was to stop the MSA trying to help matters by raising the standard of sponsorship acquisition training for parents of young drivers, managers and even the drivers themselves? In fairness, I think that he agreed with what I was saying, but at this point in time, as he tried to explain, it’s probably a little too early to expect sudden change from the MSA in this direction.

On the way 

I made one final request. Is there any reason why the MSA can’t embark on a national campaign to promote the wide range of business-development capabilities that motorsport offers companies through sponsorship, in virtually every sector within the UK? This would be a long-overdue initiative that would clearly and effectively demonstrate to us all that the MSA is keen to make it easier for competitors to secure commercial funding, and in the process, create a far less elitist sport than the one that we are currently witnessing on an almost daily basis.

I didn’t get a specific affirmative or negative response, but I have a gut feeling that in Simon Blunt we are fortunate to have someone who is genuinely trying to find the ways to make a positive difference for the MSA’s customers (that word again) and will do all it takes to push forward with innovative ways of taking motorsport forward in a way that attracts people from all walks of life.

For motorsport’s sake let’s hope he is given a free rein to do so.

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