What Motorsport Ireland can learn from Belgium – a transparent Flemish guide on not overcharging competitors…

OPINION: By Sean Moriarty 

The powers that be in Motorsport Ireland could learn an awful lot from the way things are done in Belgium.

The fallout from Tuesday’s announcement that entry fees for a one-day Irish rally using the three by three stage format have been set at  €1000 will continue for a long time unless there a massive u-turn. 

To say competitors are outraged is an understatement. And there is even more hidden in the now famous letter that was circulated to all club secretaries this week. 

The governing body is in the process of setting up a centralised online entry portal so that all entries for all rallies are directed through MI’s accounts and not the individual club’s account. [see footnote on this at bottom] – this has caused anger in the clubs but a second letter from MI addressed to secretaries adds:

One item from the letter issued by the President yesterday was raised by a number of members at our meeting last night whereby it states:

 “The office is currently developing an online entry system and we expect this platform to be in place in time for the return. All entries and payments will be on this platform giving clubs definite paid entries by their closing dates”

Please note: this does not state that payments will be to Motorsport Ireland direct nor is this the intention.

There are further – unverified – rumours that MI is to appoint three or four ‘Super Clerks of the Course’ to take over the on-event running of rallies, taking even further power from the club that did all the donkey work up to the day of the rally. 

No doubt these people wont work on an empty stomach and the best of steak and wine will be needed to keep them nourished.  I have seen some of the bills from Killarney restaurants on rally week! 

Back to main subject. 

Talk about a Cartel. First engage in price fixing, which must be illegal, then control the payment of entry fees and then appoint your own admins. 

All very nicely controlled and only to the detriment of the sport, the clubs and the licence holders.

Let’s look at how Belgium do things. It is fair to clubs and has clear accountability to the governing body. It is transparent. 

The below paragraphs are a copy and paste of regulations from a Belgium mini-stages style rally from about two years ago (like us they have only managed to run one or two events since March 2020)

It is best not to focus on the prices and costs here as they may have increased in Belgium in the meantime – except that their entry fees were much lower than Ireland for similar events at the time these regs were published. 

Each regulation is broken down again a little bit further down this article. 

ONE: The entry fee is 163,00 € and has to be paid to the organisation. All event documentation such as roadbook, start numbers etc. are included in this fee. The payment has to be done by transfer to the bank account with number XXXXX, IBAN: XXXX XXXX, BIC: XXXX name of SuperStage [MOTOR CLUB]with mentioning “name driver and codriver MBR 2019”, and this before the 29th of April 2019.

TWO: Start Authorisation: The Steward on duty will give a start authorisation to each crew who duly paid the insurance fee and the working cost to the federation (VAS VZW). The total fee will be €128,00. This sum has to be paid in cash at the Administrative Check to the Steward on duty

 THREE: Competitors with a Belgium license will have to pay an administrative fee to the federation with an amount €60,00, to be paid to the Steward on duty.

 FOUR: At the Administrative Checks each team will be asked to pay €5,00. This amount goes directly to the marshals. 

So in plain English 

ONE: Competitors pay this fee on entering the rally. The day the regs go live, this fee leaves your account. It is the club’s organisation fee. If you don’t start you won’t get it back which is fair enough. The club will have published a roadbook for you, it will have spent admin-time processing your entry fee, seeding you etc and will have printed door cards for you. In some instances you will get it back if there is a reserve entry and someone takes your place – more often than not the club will keep some portion of this if you don’t start (it is not their fault your mechanic did not have the car ready) to pay for the above mentioned printed items.

TWO: During recce sign on you pay this second fee to the governing body. They have a separate desk in the rally office. No pay – no start. You know exactly where the governing body’s fees are going and they get to collect it on the spot removing the responsibility from the club. 

THREE: This fee is always waivered for international crews but again licence holders know where this money goes and why that is the case.

FOUR: Who does not want to pay for marshals? The recommended fiver is always overpaid, a cash bucket at rally sign on, managed by the event treasurer or chief marshal, more often than not contains tenners, 20 and even 50 euro notes.

Pay up at all four (three if you are a foreign entrant) stages and you are good to go. 

Discuss the system by all means but pricing is another story –  the total entry fee here was under €300 – a return ferry is not going to cost €700, and apart from the time and effort getting to and from the event, a rally in Belgium is better value than one taking place 20kms over the road. Why not leave the car out there, one ferry crossing and a few Ryanair flights and you are still better off 

in Belgium than you are at home and you have the added bonus of experiencing a new country and culture. 

All of the above is written from experience , I am lucky enough to have competed on over 20 Belgium events. If the current price structure stays the same I am sure many more will be joining us. 

FOOTNOTE: I have spoken to senior officials from the two clubs in Kerry, one says the online entry portal directs funds to MI’s accounts while the other says this is not the case and the funds go to the club. Whatever the case may be, it shows further lack of clarity (calling for better clarity is one of the purposes of this article) and the famous letter does not explain properly how this might work.

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