In every sport the way of the governing body is far from being strewn with roses, and in motorcycling sport in particular many problems arise which appear almost insoluble. A case in point is the definition of an amateur, and this ever present enigma is once again brought into the limelight by the recent action of the Auto Cycle Union in suspending for varying periods, many of the riders in the 1929 Amateur T.T., as it is incorrectly but commonly termed.
The facts of the case are simple enough. evidence was produced that many of the riders had previously accepted remuneration in the form of bonuses, from various firms; as in the definition of an amateur for the purposes of this event, this was one of the specific terms laid down as not being permissible, it does not require any great legal knowledge to see that the rules had been very definitely contravened, and the result can hardly be a surprise to anybody.
From this it may be thought that we are joining in a condemnation of the riders who have got into trouble as a result of this event, and we may as well state at once that this is not so. The error lies not so much with those who have broken the rules, but with the rules themselves. In other sports the definition of an amateur is on the whole easy, and the dividing line between amateur and professional is broad and definite. The amateur plays a game for his amusement, and the pro. for a living. Unfortunately when one comes to the mechanical sport of motorcycling such happy state does not obtain, and the dividing line becomes very hard to find.
Some time ago we were discussing this same problem with a trade rider, whose name is a household word among the followers of motorcycle road racing, and he vouchsafed the statement that he knew of only two riders whom he could really call amateurs in the strict sense of the word, and they were both men who could afford a fair amount for what they considered their chief hobby.
This remark strikes immediately at the root of the whole trouble. Motorcycle racing is not a cheap form of sport, and the average competitor is not a man of great means. The result is obvious.
The only reason in most cases for a man to remain a genuine amateur is that he is not good enough to be able to make any money at the game.
The old division between a sport or a living no longer holds good. The ” shamateur ” as he becomes known, may earn a living as a watchmaker or a market gardener, but unless he is very successful at his trade he will not be in a position to afford an expensive hobby. But motorcycle racing is an expensive hobby. The fire is in his blood, and to give up one of the finest sports of all seems impossible. What to do ? There is only one solution, the hobby must pay for itself, and then he can continue it. Hence the ” shamateur.”
In spirit he is undoubtedly an amateur. He races, not to make money, but for sport, yet his position can have no standing on paper. Technically he gets payment in proportion to his success, and is therefore a professional. The amount he gets is only a matter of degree and cannot effect our definition. As things now stand, there is only one honest course open to him, he must “turn trade.” Those of us who have taken this course, simply because we could not afford to remain amateurs, will always regret being excluded from the greatest amateur event of all, but there is no alternative. The Amateur Road Race has lately been growing a more difficult problem, and now this race, if the rules are stricly enforced, will be confined to the wealthy, and the complete novice without knowledge or equipment, who amuses himself, terrifies his friends, and annoys the manufacturers of his machine. If the word Amateur is still to be used its meaning cannot be changed. Why not a private owner T.T. ? The private owner is easier to define and perhaps the whole problem might be made simpler.
Rules once made must be enforced or they become a farce, and that much abused body the A.C.U. will, we are sure, receive the support of every motorcyclist in its recent action, but the whole position will require drastic revision before the next Amateur T.T.