What a difference two months can make!
In February things were looking good for our sport, (with a few minor speed humps expected on the way). Now everything has stopped, including the MNSW April general meeting. The effects of the Covid 19 virus and the precautions to prevent its spread have shattered our sport and, as all riders will know, all competition, practice, social rides and coaching has ceased.
So what has happened to MNSW? Not a lot of information is coming out of the office. So I had a chat with MNSW President Gavin Hunt to try to get a wider picture.
We were informed in an earlier press release that CEO Dave Cooke and Office Manager Amy Knop have both taken redundancy packages. Staff numbers are now down to four, and they all work from home. (If you have any enquiries for MNSW email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no-one at the office.
The reduction in staff wages, superannuation, car allowances etc is expected to save MNSW around $400,000.00 over a year, and who knows how long this emergency will last!
The board has been meeting constantly during this period, (mostly by phone and email), and a set of minutes will be released to clubs soon, on MNSW's web site.
I asked Gavin what was the current status of the court action against MNSW by former director Michel Constantinou. He replied that MNSW hasn't heard from anyone. In my opinion, if all competition and coaching has been stopped, Michel's events could be out of business. Similarly, the action by Australian Motorcyclist Association challenging MNSW's authority to inspect and licence circuits and questioning the legality of MA's insurance subsidiary MAIL, seems to have stalled.
The planned MNSW AGM, set for May has now been reset to 18 June, possibly with a small meeting to limit numbers, and streamed via zoom. At the moment there are four nominations for the Directors position to replace retiring director, Christine Tickner. If there is also a vacancy to replace an appointed director, this appointment will be delayed until after the forthcoming elections, possibly to offer a position to an unsuccessful candidate from the directors election.
On the national scene, I asked how MA was faring in the crisis. Gavin said that it was holding up at the moment, with the services sharing plan, which I mentioned last issue expected to start soon, most likely with MNSW issuing all licences. I believe that consolidation of services from some LCB's will be inevitable if this emergency continues for more than a few months. Some other states are struggling to survive, so don't be surprised if more facilities and services are shared between state bodies. With the full adoption of Ridernet this could happen immediately racing re-commences; and could be permanent.
I asked if there had been any discussion from MA regarding financial assistance to MA or other LCB's, and he assured me there were none yet. (In the MA Alliance Agreement which MNSW has signed, LCB's could be called upon to support other states in an emergency). MNSW is the only LCB with sizeable spare cash.
Motorcycling Victoria, which has only just joined the MA Alliance Leadership Team, has received a $2 million loan from the Victoria Government to resurface their Broadford road race circuit. The resurfacing has developed some serious problems and will need some remediation, and with this loan outstanding and no income because all circuits are closed, MVIC has reduced their staff numbers and could be in trouble.
So where does this leave us? Over the last couple of years we have had a devastating drought which has sapped the life out of many country towns. Then came the bushfires which destroyed towns along the NSW coast. Now we are confronted with the Corona Virus, which has quickly proved to be the most virulent bug since Spanish Flu. The distancing rules and lock downs that followed have destroyed our sport, so the action by MNSW and the other LCB's sound like reasonable efforts to reduce overheads until things improve.
The post virus years may be very different to the recent past. Perhaps this is the time to re-evaluate our aims and priorities for a leaner and financially tighter era.
What about the effects on individuals? Many people are now unexpectedly out of work or on shorter hours, maybe working from home on reduced pay. With limited income or uncertainty over future job security, racing motorcycles may not be a high priority. So even if the social gathering rules were relaxed in the near future, I believe that clubs could have difficulty in running events. Many clubs need minimum numbers of competitors to cover the overhead costs of race meetings such as permit fees, ambulance hire, circuit costs etc, so the number of meetings could be limited. The only slight benefit of the current crisis is that petrol prices are the lowest for years, so at least travel to meetings would be cheaper, if there were any.
When I asked Gavin what plans the Office of Sport has made for an eventual resumption of competition, he said that it was likely that small club meetings with 50 to 100 riders could be permitted first. Major State and National events would have to wait until after studying the effects of the small events. The real worry is that an early relaxation of the assembly rules could result in a second wave of infection, so there will be a very cautious approach.
Things will not go back to the way they were last year any time soon, so we all must be prepared to work to restore our sport for years to come.
During the lock down, perhaps now is the time to do a bit of long put-off cleaning and maintenance on the bike, as well as maintaining your physical fitness!
Remember: we are all in this together, and it will take all of us to hold clubs together during this difficult time.
Regards...... Dave E