|With partnership funding of £150,000 from the government`s Motorsport Development Board and match funding from the MSA`s Motor Sports Training Trust, Volunteers in Motorsport represents the first ever centrally co-ordinated activity to address the issues of recruitment, retention, training and development among the essential motor sport volunteer community.
There are currently over 9,000 marshals and a further 3,500 licensed officials registered with the MSA, but in the last four years the number of active marshals has dropped by over 10%. In motor cycling the decline is even sharper, showing falls of around 19%.
In creating Volunteers in Motorsport, the MSA has joined forces with its two-wheeled equivalent the Auto Cycle Union (ACU). This was critical in securing government funding and essential to the success of the campaign.
The MSA has always funded an extensive training programme, reaching some 5,000 people a year through seminars and training courses organised by MSA-recognised clubs and led by 120 MSA-licensed instructors. However, there has never been such a national drive to attract new blood.
Volunteers in Motorsport will cover four key areas: a recruitment campaign to increase numbers across the sport; a retention strategy to recognise experience, increase motivation and reduce further decline; a national programme to provide relevant, structured and professional training that is accessible to all; and a framework for schemes that recognise personal development and simplify the process of cross-discipline participation. Running parallel to this, the MSA will be looking at marshals` welfare, such as the provision of better facilities, in order to improve the environment for volunteers.
Volunteers in Motorsport, to be launched officially at the Autosport International Show in January, will be implemented by Sue Sanders-Peppitt, who is also responsible for all aspects of spectator safety on Wales Rally GB. It will be operated in conjunction with Allan Dean-Lewis, Head of External Affairs at the MSA, who also co-ordinates the FIA Institute`s Safety Training Working Group.
"Everyone knows how important volunteers are to motor sport," says Colin Hilton, Chief Executive of the MSA. "We have had a problem with declining numbers for as long as I can remember, but the response has traditionally been fragmented between clubs and ourselves. We now have an opportunity, thanks not only to government funding but also to the Motor Sport Training Trust, to create a co-ordinated, national approach to this serious issue."
"We do need to recruit new blood into the sport," agrees Sanders-Peppitt. "But the people we already have are essential to the ongoing viability of the sport and are very important to us, so we also need to make sure we can retain them. If we consider that 87% of marshals are male and 99% are white, we can clearly see that our volunteers are not representative of wider society and we must take positive measures to address the issue. I`m really pleased to have the chance to make a difference to something this vital. We will be involving many people from all disciplines and we would welcome everyone`s views and comments."