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The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) is taking  the Australian Auto Sport Alliance (AASA) to court over what CAMS claims is the unauthorised use of the title ‘Australian Rally Championship’.

In a permanent injunction lodged with the Federal Court on June 6 requiring AASA to ‘cease and desist’, CAMS claims that the public will be confused over who has the right to use the title.

Late last year AASA launched a new high-end rally series designed to be an alternative to the long-running, traditional Australian Rally Championship, which it claimed was being mismanaged and was drawing competitors away from rallying.

From the outset this was promoted specifically as the AASA Australian Rally Championship, but CAMS is, and always has been, very protective of its recognised titles and the use of words such as ‘championship’ and ‘series’, and took umbridge that the upstart AASA would attempt to take CAMS exclusive use of the title away.

AASA President, Mick Ronke, said that they will lodge a defence in the Federal Court but said that the matter should never have got to this stage.

“We are prepared to sit down and thrash this matter out with CAMS, but they were unwilling to do so,” he said.

However the court action is not just about who has the right to use the Australian Rally Championship title – CAMS is seeking compensation for loss of income, which it claims has resulted in a loss of income because the commercial value of the ARC has been undermined.

Unless the matter can be resolved by talks between both parties, the court action is likely to be an expensive exercise, with legal fees expected to amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars if it goes to trial. According to the AASA’s Bruce Robertson, the matter should never have reached this stage.

“We have always been particular in promoting our championship as the AASA ARC so as to avoid any confusion, and have never gone out of our way to describe it as anything else. We’re not trying to pass ourselves off as their event,” Robertson said.

The court action is just another aspect of the long-running war of words between the two bodies and which has escalated in recent months as AASA makes inroads into areas of the sport traditionally deemed to be CAMS’ exclusivity.

Although much of the AASA income and interest revolves around motor racing, it has begun to make inroads into the Australian rallying scene in response to the widely-held belief that CAMS was ignoring grass roots rallying at the expense of the Australian championship. The formation of the AASA Australian Rally Championship was as a result of that, forcing CAMS to take a number of measures to shore up its financially troubled ARC.

CAMS CEO, Graham Fountain, claims that the basis of CAMS’ insistence to take the matter to court is over the fact that AASA refuse to negotiate on the matter. He is reported as saying that CAMS believes that the integrity and heritage of that title has to be protected. “It (the court action) is not something we have taken lightly,” Fountain said.

Meanwhile, there have been staff changes at Rallycorp (the commercial rights holder for the CAMS Australian Rally Champioship), with ARC media liaison person, Alison McQueen, unexpectedly relieved of her position just before the Queensland round of the ARC last weekend. It is understood that funding shortfalls brought about her dismissal.

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