|Motor sport is an easy target.
People who are not motor sport enthusiasts often dismiss our sport on any number of grounds. They feel the noise disturbs their Sunday afternoon; our venues adversely affect their house prices; they say we are gas-guzzlers, polluters and speed freaks; the sport is too dangerous to insure; as a perceived cash-rich sport we do not deserve government funding; worst of all, many say motor sport is not a sport at all!
These accusations more often than not lack any substance or foundation, but this seems not to deter people from voicing their opinions about our pastime. We have learned to live them, but this time we may finally have met our match.
The government`s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has, in one fell swoop and without any consultation, threatened to destroy 43% of the UK`s four-wheeled motor sport events, as well as some 4,000 off-road motor cycle events.
DEFRA has decided – on its own and in the face of EU directives to the contrary – that farm land `set aside` and paid for by the Single Payment Subsidy (SPS) cannot now host any motor sport events whatsoever.
This a concerted campaign aimed exclusively at motor sport and once again, ignorance lies at the heart of the decision.
Farmers and landowners understand that the vast majority of motor sport events do very little damage to the land on which they take place. Within a few days the grass has grown up and it`s difficult to see any evidence of the event at all.
Perhaps the authorities have seen a couple of permanent off-road facilities next to the motorway and presume all land use to be in this vein?
There is also a presumption that the land owners are making huge profits from the `double use` of their land. The truth is that these are often small, club events paid for by the competitors and in many, many cases the owner allows the use of the land free of charge.
Activities that will be particularly impacted are autograss, autocross, sporting trials, production car trials, 4x4 events and some rallies.
For many years now, the motor sport community has kept its head down; don`t rock the boat in case it makes the situation worse.
Perhaps now is the time to stand up, stand proud and fight for our sport. We need to show the wider community the truth about motor sport and expose the lies and myths for what they are.
DEFRA`s reaction to our initial objection does not look promising. Admittedly it is a terrible time to be trying to get answers out of Westminster, but there is no suggestion that they will reconsider their decision. We have therefore instigated legal proceedings to prove that DEFRA`s view of the law is incorrect.
What is particularly galling, is that while one government department seems to be trying to shut down the sport, another (the Department of Trade and Industry) is actively promoting it to the tune of a £16m investment in the motor sport industry over the next five years. A great example of joined-up government!
The cancellations for the first events have started to come in. For these, it is already too late, but every possible pressure must be brought to bear before the entire season is written off.
The MSA has joined forces with the governing body of motor cycle sport (ACU) and other affected parties to channel its campaign through the Land Access & Recreation Association (LARA) of which the MSA is a founding member and major funder.
This is a fundamental threat to motor sport and we need everyone to join the campaign. Write to your parliamentary candidates, write to the press, tell your friends.
The time for taking it on the chin is over; we now have to fight for our sport.