-- The perilous state of Australian
motorcycle racing revealed
By, Trevor Hedge
Those of you familiar with my mcnews.com.au musings over the past 12 years know that overwhelmingly this site has supported - and continues to promote - all facets of Australian motorcycle racing, bigger and better than any other web or print publication. This is an indisputable fact.
So it is with quite a heavy heart that I report on some matters covered in the most recent meeting of the Motorcycling Australia board, the governing body for motorcycle sport in this country. However, I am a motorcycle scribe so it is my duty to bring you the news without any undue favour or fear.
I came across the minutes from the Board of Directors meeting on the Motorcycling Australia website. Clearly, it is a matter of course for minutes such as these to be available on the MA website; they have an index page titled ‘MA Reports & Meeting Minutes’ for such correspondence and, although no entries have yet been made in that index for 2011, this document was still publicly available on the MA website. After conferring with some members of the industry and providing them with the link to the relevant document, the PDF containing the minutes was removed, obviously at their request.
There are many concerning items raised in the minutes, such as the current perilous state of the Australian SX Championship, including details that the promoter is severing ties with main drawcard Chad Reed and that the series promoter owes Motorcycling Australia a considerable amount of money.
Of further concern is that on further investigation myself I discovered that the Australian Securities & Investments Commission currently lists Super X Australasia PTY Ltd as ‘Under External Administration and/or Controller Appointed’. Dated March 25th, ASIC also report a ‘Notice of Creditor’s meeting to Consider Voluntary Winding’ and a ‘Notification of Resolution Winding Up The Company’. Clearly, the sport of Australian Supercross is in dire trouble. (Download ASIC PDF including debtors and creditors)
The minutes state Motorcycling Australia’s budget deficit is currently $334,000 and the insurance arm of MA made a loss in 2010. This is a first and should be seen in the light of the GFC etc. as of little concern.
Issues with track usage clearly continue to be a matter of review. Currently, ASBK is unable to run events at Winton Motor Raceway or Eastern Creek as those circuits will not accept their bookings. I have reported before that most suspect this is most likely the result of some tactical bastardry on the part of the recently-formed Australian Road & Track Rider Promotions Pty Ltd, which runs the rival Formula Xtreme road race series and a separate race licensing program. Both circuits are in partnership with the rival series and thus, putting two-and-two together, it makes sense that they would play their hand strategically, preventing ASBK gaining access to these key markets.
The minutes of the MA board meeting note that MA Director David White is to write to the current Minister for Sport and Recreation in NSW, concerning access to Eastern Creek. Again, this is not ground breaking stuff as most involved in the sport know this state of affairs only too well, rather it is provided to the uninitiated as background to what follows next.
Stated in black and white in the MA Board minutes is the following admission; ‘D. White stated that Y. Konsky is meeting with John Tetley to try and prevent Formula Xtreme going to Queensland Raceway.’ (Yarrive Konsky is the promoter of the Australian Superbike Championship and John Tetley manages Queensland Raceway.)
Now, while we have all suspected that such shenanigans have long been played by the other side, they have been smart enough not to admit such tactics. I pressed Australian Road & Track Rider Promotions Pty Ltd Director, Terry O’Neill, on the matter of Eastern Creek and Winton Motor Raceways deliberately putting barriers in the way of ASBK in their quest to run events at those complexes in an interview I conducted last year, but my thrusts were skillfully parried by Mr O’Neill.
Other matters raised in the document also infer that the ASBK is struggling for funding and has asked Motorcycling Australia for more funding. In the current economic climate that would hardly come as a surprise to anyone.
I spoke with Yarrive Konsky, Director of IEG, the promoter of the ASBK Championship, and he assures me that the discussions he was having with MA in regards to funding were with a view to 2012 and beyond. He said that there is absolutely no threat to this year’s ASBK Championship and funding is secured to fulfill the complete 2011 calendar. Mr Konsky also swore that he has had no discussions with Queensland Raceway concerning Formula Xtreme, and that his discussions with Mr Tetley only concerned future ASBK events scheduled at Queensland Raceway.
The real clanger in this document, however, is the following: ‘D. White stated that industry representatives are stating that if IEG are not successful, there will be no option but to move over to Formula Xtreme.’
Honda and Suzuki are the primary supporters of the Australian Superbike Championship and at the moment it must be said that these two companies currently underwrite the series and are almost solely responsible for its survival, something that the MA Board minutes infer is in a particularly tenuous situation.
I spoke to Suzuki General Manager, Perry Morison, concerning the statement noted in the minutes and the long time Suzuki head honcho had absolutely no hesitation in labeling the statement contained in the MA document a complete misrepresentation of any discussions that he had undertaken with them. He also firmly stated that Suzuki Australia has absolutely no intention - or wish - to compete in the rival Formula Xtreme series.
I certainly believe Mr Morison's protestations that Suzuki has not indicated any desire to take his company’s racing efforts over to Formula Extreme. It is a position entirely consistent with every discussion I have ever had with him on the matter, thus his apparently being attributed as making a comment to the contrary in this MA document has the normally quite reserved Suzuki man none too pleased.
Honda Motorcycles General Manager Tony Hinton was perhaps not quite as dismissive of the option as his counterpart at Suzuki but still reinforced Honda’s support for the ASBK in the following statement.
“I have regular meetings in conjunction with Motorcycling Australia and other key industry representatives to discuss the state of various championships. At the World Superbike event in February, we took the opportunity to discuss the Australian Superbike Championship.
“From time to time, as industry representatives, we put our view forward of what we think is in the best interests of the championship. Whether it be a two-day meeting or one bike per rider, as per the British Superbikes, those ideas should be put on the table and considered.
“While we are fully committed to the Australian Superbike Series, Honda Australia does have contractual obligations to its supplier of road race services which is, of course, Motologic Pty. Ltd.
“If the Australian Road Racing Championship, for whatever reason, failed to run in some way, we acknowledge that contractually we would have no option but to move to an alternative race series
"We will address that situation only when and if the need arises.”
As I declared in my opening paragraph, it gives me absolutely no pleasure to report on the matters in this article, but it is my duty to report the news, even when some of that news is clearly unpalatable for any enthusiast that holds motorcycle racing dear to their heart. Make of it what you will.
-- Addendum. As we published Motorcycling Australia issued a statement that we were alerted to by an MA press officer, who referred us to their website where we retrieved the following: Motorcycling Australia (MA) CEO David White would like to release the following statement regarding the release of Board Minutes from the February 2011 MA Board Meeting:
It has come to my attention that the minutes from the February MA Board Meeting were incorrectly placed on the MA website on Monday 28 March.
The minutes contain minimal notation of issues discussed at Board level, and are completed for internal use to formulate reports for general dissemination – this is normal operating procedure.
These minutes, though final, were not for general distribution and should not have been made publically available as they do not provide the necessary level of context and could potentially be wrongly interpreted – they have since been removed from the website.
MA is currently investigating how this occurred, and will undertake a review of its internal processes and procedures immediately to ensure formal structures are adhered to.
I would like to personally apologise to all parties affected, assuring them that the issue is of the upmost importance and MA is currently dealing with the situation.
The finalised February 2011 MA Board Report will be released shortly, and will be made available on the MA Website.
In light of the situation I would urge media to consider the context of the information when reporting.
I would encourage any affected parties to contact MA directly with their concerns so they can be addressed and once again I would like to apologise on behalf of MA.
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