Dear MQ members,
In this report, I firstly deal with a serious cultural issue that has increasingly infected our sport and then I return to the theme of the first 2 Board Papers; ie tell us what MQ can do differently to assist the operation of your club.
Declining respect for our officials and volunteers is not on
The simple fact is that if we do not maintain enough volunteer officials and clubs do not attract enough volunteer assistants, we cannot conduct motorcycle racing. Our officials and club volunteers donate to you, the competitors, substantial amounts of their time to allow you to do what you love.
They are not 'out to get you', which regrettably is too often the underlying assumption of abusive social media cowards and competitors who refuse to sportingly accept that umpire's decision.
If you have any idea of the effort that must be applied to conduct even a club day, you will appreciate how difficult it has become to attract officials and other volunteers who will commit whole days of their time to ensure the events are conducted as efficiently and safely as possible. One factor that is obviously causing this disinclination is the increasing abuse and disrespect to which our officials, clubs and club volunteers are subject from competitors and their supporters.
This must stop. Or racing will stop because we will run out of enough thick-skinned officials and club volunteers prepared to cop the sort of abuse to which they are too often subject. We have already lost too many good people because, quite reasonably, they cannot justify the continued donation of their time only to be denigrated and abused for their unpaid contribution.
Be assured, the MQ board is fully committed to supporting our officials and our clubs and we do not tolerate abuse, intimidation or denigration in any form.
Competitors and their supporters owe a primary responsibility to officials, clubs, other competitors, MQ and the sport in general to sportingly accept the decision of the umpire. This is not unique to motorcycle sport. You are all well aware what happens to competitors and spectators in other sports who argue with or abuse referees or umpires. We simply expect, in fact demand, the same standards of sporting behaviour in motorcycling, but too often that standard is not being met.
Our officials are subject to oversight by the Officials Review Board. The ORB will take appropriate action, including making recommendations to the MQ board, where an official misconducts himself or herself. However, we all make mistakes and merely being wrong is not necessarily grounds for any sanction or reprimand, but in some rare cases it may be. If you have a complaint regarding an official, the only acceptable course is to report that complaint, in writing, in civilised language, to the ORB.
If you have a complaint about another competitor, a club or a club officer, the only acceptable course is to report that complaint in writing to the MQ office; ie if the key officials cannot deal with the matter on the day.
All complaints, properly submitted, will be dealt with in a fair and just manner, as we have dealt with all such complaints over a long period.
Contrary to the MA Member Protection Policy (see the MA Manual of Motorcycle Sport), we have seen too often over the past couple of years unrestrained criticism and abuse of our officials and our clubs, particularly on social media.
To be clear, you will be accountable to the MQ board forany abusive or threatening conduct, however that is manifest. The abuse we see on social media is, unfortunately, the tip of the iceberg because it evidences only a sliver of the expression of the attitudes some of our members adopt as a 'normal' and, regrettably, teach their children is 'normal'.
The MQ board treats all breaches of the MA Member Protection Policy seriously and we impose penalties where necessary. If substantial licence suspension, even cancellation, and/or a monetary penalty is necessary, then those penalties will be imposed. For first offences, you may get a warning. However, a warning is not guaranteed if the breach is sufficiently serious.
If you genuinely think that an official has got a decision wrong, then there are protest and appeal processes stated in the Manual of Motorcycle Sport that you must use in respect of the event at which the incident occurred. Abusing an official to his or her face or engaging in cowardly attacks on social media is never acceptable.
Some of the outbursts we have seen on social media, not just about officials and organisers, are shameful and disgusting. As a member of MQ you are obliged to conduct yourself at all times in a civil and humane manner.
So please take time to consider the rights of all our members to be treated with respect and courtesy before you post anything on social media. And consider whether a licence suspension, a substantial fine, other penalty or a combination of penalties is worth the 'satisfaction' of abusing the people who donate their time to make this sport happen for you.
Importantly, if you see something on social media from anyone involved in motorcycle sport that you think is offensive, please promptly report that to the MQ office and we will take prompt and appropriate action.
The MQ board has dealt with numerous breaches of the Member Protection Policy over the past few, mostly arising out of intemperate social media posts. But we have become concerned that it sometime takes too long to finalise these matters.
New protocols for dealing with social media breaches
At the April MQ board meeting, we agreed new protocols for more promptly dealing with social media abuse, intimidation, threats etc. Immediately the matter comes to MQ's attention, Rob Ferguson will call the offender and discuss what needs to be done to repair the situation caused by an unacceptable social media post. This will always involve the immediate withdrawal of the offensive post. And it may also involve personal apologies in writing, public apologies in writing and written undertakings to refrain from such conduct in the future. If the offender does not take the immediate action to repair the situation that Rob prescribes, then the matter will come before the MQ board and we will impose penalties. In more serious cases, the MQ board may impose penalties even though action has been taken to repair the situation. In these cases we, the MQ board, will be 'out to get you'.
We remain open to suggestions for improvement, but the silence is deafening
As I have said in my two previous Board Papers on this site, MQ is genuinely here to help all participants in motorcycle sport. But too many of our participants seem to assume the opposite as justification for unreasonable criticism and abuse. In those last two articles, I asked clubs to make suggestions to the MQ board about how MQ can improve its service. But, disappointingly, we have seen nothing yet, but we do continue to see unaccountable criticism.
We will continue to work on that communication problem, but that process of improvement must be bilateral. If clubs, as the fundamental basis of our organisation, cannot spend some time and energy on making suggestions to MQ, then it makes the process of improving MQ's service to its members and stakeholders much more difficult.
So I ask you all again, please consider what your club thinks MQ can do, stop doing or do differently that will make a positive difference to what clubs and our individual members aspire to achieve in motorcycle sport. We may not be able to satisfy all requests. But I assure you all requests and suggestions will be given serious consideration and if we cannot satisfy your request, in part or in whole, we will give you an explanation of why we cannot. If we can do something, or stop doing something that makes good organisational sense, it will be done.
Until next month,