Friday 29 October 2021

Rally - A personal view

It wasn't that I was surprised by Eddie Kelly's recent announcement to 'retire' from the noble art of motor sport photography, it was surprise that it took so long, given the restrictions under which he and others like him have to operate these days.

The circumstances and events which he has described over recent months have been ongoing ever since the MSA introduced their new Media Accreditation scheme six years ago. Even then an assurance was given that the scheme would be kept under review. Nothing has changed, and this despite raising the issue with MS UK.

To give just one example. The Press Officer at a McRae Stages Rally event a few years back had agreed the locations where Eddie could stand along with the other event photographer. This was also approved by the Clerk of the Course and with the MSA Safety Delegate. On the day of the rally, the two photographers were in position as agreed until the Stewards drove through the stage ahead of the rally.

The Stewards stopped their car and one of them told the photographers they would have to move as they were in a vulnerable location, thereby over-ruling the very experienced event Press Officer, the licenced CofC and the appointed MSA Safety Delegate. Since they would not listen to reason the photographers had no choice but to move as prevarication would have delayed the rally.

This episode highlights another issue regarding press and media attendance at events whereby different officials interpret and apply the rules differently. For instance some Marshals, Stage Commanders and Rally Officials allow journalists access to Stage Starts, Stage Finishes and some Controls - while others don't! Which makes trying to plan a day's schedule very difficult, and sometimes impossible.

Photographers face even more restrictions and they sometimes face the ludicrous situation whereby inexperienced officials determine which areas are safe and which are unsafe regardless of the experience and knowledge of the photographer they are dealing with.

Which brings us back to the MS UK Media Accred scheme. In the days of the MSA, the original scheme was abused by senior MSA and rally officials who would grant media credentials to VIPs, sponsors, friends, in fact anyone who didn't qualify for any other role. No wonder the profession lost respect.

The present scheme is not fit for purpose, that's why many professionals do not sign up to it.

Rally photographers need a 'right to roam' and journalists need reasonable access to competitors and if MS UK vet the media applications properly then rally organisers and officials can be confident that those who turn up to work on their events will be responsible professionals and should be treated as such.

Like politicians and estate agents, not all journalists are obtuse. There is good, bad and indifferent in every profession. Eddie may not be the last one to call it a day.

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