Motorsport Australia seeking new powers to block licence holders
By Mat Coch
Thursday 7th April, 2022 - 1:48pm
Motorsport Australia is working on changes to its National Competition Regulations which will afford it greater powers over who can and cannot participate in sanctioned events within Australia.
The development comes in the wake of the world’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with motorsport globally working to effectively ban licence holders from Russian and Belarusian Automobile Federations.
Having reviewed its current powers, Motorsport Australia has identified a perceived gap which currently leaves it effectively powerless to prevent those licence holders from competing in events it sanctions.
Ironically, event promoters do have the facility to refuse entry, but the national governing body does not.
Work is now underway to create a regulation to afford it that power, a process that will require Board approval before it can be enshrined into the fundamental rules which underpin motorsport in Australia.
“We’d actually, we obviously made a statement around the Grand Prix, and we’d sought federal government assistance which was offered,” Motorsport Australia CEO Eugene Arocca told Speedcafe.com.
“This is more about the rest of the year, if you want to call it that, because we had heard that there was some, at least one Russian licence holder that was looking at doing one of the events that we sanction.
“And before when we spoke to the Minister for Sport, he was very supportive of acting on whatever we believe to be in the best interest,” he added.
“But [it] also gave us opportunity to look at our rules and say, ‘Well, what if we wanted to exclude someone from an Australian event that we manage?’ and there’s no specific power.
“So we are now looking to create that power, or that authority.
“It’s not generally public knowledge but I think our members are entitled to know that we want to be able to be more proactive and not reactive, and that’s something that the board will consider over the next few months.
“It’s not an urgent issue but certainly it’s something we’re considering over the next few months.”
The new rule would offer Motorsport Australia the ability to endorse or refuse a licence from competitors not only from a specific national sporting authority, but individuals.
It’s a sweeping power that could not only be used to police the sport to its benefit but could hypothetically open it to abuse and discrimination.
“Our board would not exercise its power without carefully considering both the moral and legal responsibilities of the organisation,” Arocca said when asked about the potential for discrimination which the new power introduces.
“I don’t want people to think this becomes an open-ended super-power, that we can exercise at the drop of a hat; that’s not how we operate.
“I would assure any member concerned about a so-called discrimination or the unauthorised use, or the improper use of power, that any board would be held accountable ultimately, for its conduct by the government.
“Because we’re a national sporting body, we’re recognised by the government, so we would need to always conduct ourselves with good governance – that’s an underlying protection that anyone should rely upon in viewing what we do and how we do it.
“Yes, it is a risk, but any board that chose to do that without having proper justification that would stand up in court, if need be…
“You’ve got to remember, like [Novak] Djokovic, people can take you to court, even if you’re not a national in this country.
“Ultimately we would always conduct ourselves in a manner that we would have some comfort in defending if we were ever taken to court.”
The court system is an additional safety blanket on top of other mechanisms to appeal, which vary depending on the competition or event in question – some can be pursued through the FIA’s International Court of Appeal in the first instance, and others to the Australian Motorsport Appeal Court.
For the new rules to come into force they must be put to and approved by the Motorsport Australia board which, according to its constitution, has the authority to make changes to the NCRs.
Typically, such changes happen at the start of the year, effectively between seasons when they have minimal disruption.
That may or may not happen in this case, with there being no firm reason to delay its introduction to the new year beyond being the accepted norm.
Until then, even while Motorsport Australia does not have a specific mechanism to block a licence holder, there are facilities available to event promoters.
“We still believe we’ve got a power to make the decision, irrespective of the lack of a specific clause, on the basis that we can still make general decisions around the entry, working with the promoter,” Arocca explained.
“The promoter actually has the power and the authority to deny entry to a competitor for any reason they wish, provided we give them permission.
“So we would work with the promoter on the basis of they would inform the competitive advantage are not welcome. And but we would support that decision.
“But the irony is that we’ve got a rule that says that we can support somebody who wants to reject an entry, and we ourselves don’t have that specific authority.”