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One of the most difficult tasks facing any sporting regulatory body is that of two way communication with those people and groups most affected by its decisions.

  When I was invited me in my capacity as Chairman of the Australian Rally Commission to write a column for RallySport Magazine, I was delighted to accept. Hopefully via this column I can assist rallying’s stakeholders to better understand the decision making processes that impact their sport and in turn, the Commission (ARCom) can receive valuable input from its “constituency”. It’s probably fair to say that most sporting regulatory bodies are not popular beasts. Decisions that are taken often have huge ramifications on people who are usually passionate about their sport and how they think it should be managed.

So – what is ARCom? How is it appointed? What is it supposed to do? They’re the polite questions and I’ll address those first!

The Commission is appointed on an annual basis by the Board of CAMS (the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport). It comprises six Commissioners (currently one representing each State) plus a Chairman. The current Commissioners are Steve Ashton (Victoria – also Deputy Chairman of the Commission), Michelle Gatton (Qld), Peter Macneall (WA), Ben Rainsford (SA), Lin Gigney (NSW) and Colin Trinder (NSW/ACT).

In addition we have two “competitor advisers” – Ed Ordynski and Michael Thompson. Perhaps at some future time it would be worthwhile detailing the depth and breadth of experience at all levels of rallying, that exists within the current Commission.

Our Executive Officer is Campbell Andrea who is the CAMS Rally Manager. He is assisted by Mark Zellner who also works from the CAMS National Office in Melbourne. All members of ARCom, apart from our 2 staff members, serve in honorary capacities, but CAMS covers the cost of our travel and accommodation to attend our two meetings a year – usually in Melbourne.

ARCom cannot amend the National Competition Rules (the “NCR’s”) but it can make recommendations for change to the Board of CAMS. ARCom can, however, make changes to the National Rally Code and other rallying-specific regulations.

The decision-making process suffers two criticisms – some say it is too long and some say it is too short! In recent years I believe we have as a Commission endeavoured to find the right balance by either floating ideas as a proposal via the specialist motor sport media and internet sites, obtaining feedback, assessing this feedback then taking a decision, or if a decision is required urgently, trying to gain an understanding of the views of representatives of the various stakeholders prior to taking the decision.

Do we always get it right? Probably not, in the eyes of some. Just about every decision taken by ARCom will have a positive effect in one area but come at a cost or negative impact in another.

One typical (and hypothetical) decision could be to mandate for HANS (Head and Neck Support) devices in rally cars. There is a vast amount of empirical data which demonstrates that these devices save lives. But the cost is significant and any move to make them compulsory in Australia would, I suspect, be very unpopular. This demonstrates the difficulty ARCom faces with most of its decisions, especially in a sport which is regarded (especially by the authorities and insurers) as relatively “risky”.

We have to ensure that the sport is sustainable and as affordable as possible, but at the same time do what we can to protect lives and demonstrate to the authorities and the insurers that we are capable of managing the sport in a way that will still see our children and grandchildren able to rally in the years to come.

ARCom doesn’t listen!

I’ve heard this quite a few times. I think what people mean is that we have listened, understood, but not necessarily agreed with the point of view expressed to us. We run a very open process and have in place a number of sub-committees whose specific role it is to seek feedback on some of the important areas of our sport.

For example the Tarmac Rally Working Group, chaired by Ben Rainsford, and its Technical Sub-Committee chaired by Bob Watson, together have taken enormous steps forward in endeavouring, in conjunction with tarmac rally organisers, to have a standard set of tarmac rally regulations. These groups have taken input from a large range of interested parties and will continue to do so.

The ARC Working Group is another example of our endeavours to involve the stakeholders in the decision making process. The group comprises manufacturer and private competitor representatives, event promoters and organisers, media, television and sponsors, plus of course sporting representatives.

 It is our goal (which has been achieved in the past two years) for ARCom meetings to spend less time discussing the ARC and more time discussing general rallying issues. The various working groups assist in achieving this.

Affordable Rallying

One of our greatest challenges is to keep rallying affordable. Or as affordable as possible! Perhaps we can explore this subject in future issues, but in the meantime I would encourage readers to put pen to paper on how they believe we can keep the costs of rallying within the reach of as many people as possible. Drop a line to RallySport Magazine with your suggestions!

Garry Connelly,
Chairman, Australian Rally Commission
Confederation of Australian Motorsport Ltd.
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