Further to Jack Benyon’s lead article in last week’s
entitled ‘Where have all the spectators gone?’ I don’t think this issue is just restricted to the Manx (sorry Rally Isle of Man...).
Back in the 1980s and 1990s when I and several friends used to make the annual pilgrimage to the Isle of Man each September, the ferries were packed from both the UK and Ireland with rally fans. On the stages, it was very rare that you found yourself standing next to a Manx resident.
Those were the days when the Open Championship/ BRC was in its prime and also counted towards the European Championship.
The additional appeal of the rally back then was that if you marshalled at least one stage then you found yourself in possession of a ticket to the awards presentation and after party.
Those were different times. The BRC is starting to get back on its feet after a little time in the doldrums and I appreciate that, in the aftermath of the Jim Clark Rally deaths and other unfortunate events, rallying had to address some of the issues surrounding the antics of it’s more poorly behaved followers. However the draconian changes that have been implemented in the last 12 months or so are slowly killing the appeal of watching the sport.
At most events now
spectators are viewed as being about as welcome as farts in a space suit and are being corralled into pens nowhere near corners or, heaven forbid, jumps, making the sport less of a spectacle.
There also appears to have been a change in attitude with regards to marshalling in some quarters, with a number of instances I’ve witnessed that I can only describe as being akin to schoolyard bullying with speccies being treated like cattle.
This is already driving people away from the sport and today’s fans are potentially tomorrow’s marshals, competitors or even sponsors. You can’t expect an enforced culture change not to have an effect and rallying’s appeal has always been its accessibility, take that away and watch the foundations crumble.
Hopefully as time progresses a bit of common sense will start to creep back, however it would appear that the MSA is already starting to pat itself on the back and considers the job done without out any need for debate so I fear if anything things are going to get worse not better. Chris Lunn North Yorkshire