Chain Chatter, January 1950

by “Carrozzino”

While attending the recent meeting between representatives of various motor clubs with the members of the Competitions Committee of the R.A.C., I could not help being impressed by one fact in particular. This was, that many of the problems raised by the delegates could have been cleared up if only the motor clubs were organised a little better than they are now. Numerous questions, such as the possibility of more such meetings, whether they could be held in the North, clashing of fixtures, limiting of entries for events and many other points would all solve themselves if the clubs worked together more than they do at present. That they are interested in getting together is evinced by the attendance at the Meeting in question and further by the manner in which many of them are combining with a view to running Silverstone meetings.

To many sporting motorists the chap down the road with the scruffy looking motor-cycle with the badge on the back, is just anothter of those unruly “two-wheeled types” who always seem to be having a trial on the very day that “the club” have organised a trial for cars. Before spurning this two-wheeler laddie, pause a moment to reflect upon the vast organisation of which he, by reason of the badge on the rear mudguard, is a member.

In England and Wales there are over 520 motor-cycle clubs, each one, whether it has 25 or 250 members, is made up of men and women who, in the same way car clubs members are afflicted, worship the i.c. engine and all the pleasures it can provide, whether with two wheels or four. Now that number of clubs spread over this island of ours means that there is not going to be very much space in which a gathering of motor-cyclists does not exist, and in consequence, if chaos is not to ensue then some form of organisation is needed. When the R.A.C. was given Government sanction to look after the interests of the motorist, they realised that the job of being “father” to all the motor-cyclists as well was a formidable task, so this job was handed over to another body which was called the Auto-Cycle Union and since the beginning of club life in 1903 the A.C.U. has had charge of all organised motor-cycling. While almost any club motor-cyclist will tell you just what he thinks is wrong with the A.C.U., none will say that the basic idea is not sound. If it was not, it would not have survived and flourished over the past 46 years.

With so many clubs in the country it would not be possible for one committee to administer to them all, so the whole of England and Wales is divided into recognised areas, there being 18 all told. For example, Kent, Sussex and Surrey are grouped together and termed the South Eastern Centre, while Yorkshire is itself large enough to be a centre on its own. Each of these Centres is governed in a strictly democratic manner and has its own Board of Control. This consists of representatives from each of the Clubs in the Centre and the Board Committee functions in exactly the same way as a normal club committee does. Each Centre is, in effect, a club itself and each sends representatives to a main governing board, which is termed the General Council, the committee of this Council being the A.C.U. itself, so that, via the clubs and the Centre’s each motor-cyclist has representation on the main governing body. The A.C.U., while being responsible for all organised motor-cyclists and clubs, does not hold direct control, but apportions the governing out to each of the Centre Boards, so that each of the 18 bodies is responsible for all motor-cycling activities in its particular area. The various Centres are entirely self-governing, but must, of course, abide by rules drawn up by the General Council; they each hold their own Board meetings, five or six times a year, at which constituent members air their grievances or put forward suggestions, and where necessary these are taken up to General Council meetings, which are held three times a year. The General Council also elects each year, by secret vote in a true democratic manner, a body of members known as the Competitions Committee, who meet about once a month, to deal with all sporting matters.

Motor-cycling competitions, be they trial or racing, are divided tip into three main categories: firstly, Closed events, for members of the organising club only, Open-to-Centre events, which, as the name suggests, are only open to riders belonging to a club in the Centre concerned, and Open events, which literally are open, to any rider who is a member of the A.C.U., and holds a Competition licence. There are one or two variations to these groups to suit special circumstances, but on the whole the three main divisions have proved adequate. Naturally not all clubs can be considered to be in any particular Centre and in cases where a club is situated on or near the boundary of two, or even three, Centres, it is able to choose the Centre to which it affiliates. In cases where a club is nationwide in its membership, such as the British Motor Cycle Racing Club, or is restricted in its membership such as the Morgan Three-Wheeler Club, then they have no connection with a Centre but are governed direct by the General Council and are called Non-Territorial clubs, the title being self-explanatory. Now you may say that certain motor-cyclists are not interested in joining the A.C.U., and they need not if they feel so inclined, but if they wish to partake in any A.C.U. organised competitions then they must join an affiliated club, and similarly, if they want to partake in any international events under the aegis of the Federation Internationale Motorcycliste, or F.I.M. for short, they must again be members of the A.C.U., for that body is itself a member of the F.I.M. in the same way that the R.A.C. is a member of the F.I.A. All this organisation is all very well, but what does it cost the club members. To be precise, nothing. The average motorcycle club charges a membership fee of 5s. or 7s. 6d., and for each member, the club pays the  A.C.U. 9d. and the Centre Board, of which it is a member, also receives 9d., so that the ordinary club Member merely pays his club subscription in the normal way and 1s. 6d. is deducted by the club secretary and sent, as a yearly return, to the A.C.U. and the Centre. The result is a natural balancing of finances, the Centre with a large number of clubs to look after, and in consequence greater expenditure, has proportionally more funds than the small Centre, while the A.C.U. main body is also given a grant by the R.A.C. for the purpose of looking after all motor-cycling interests.

All this is very interesting, and we are glad to know the motor-cyclist is so beautifully controlled, but of what interest is it to motor clubs. The interest is in, the fact that a similar arrangement, in principle if not in detail, would solve a great many of the problems confronting the sporting motorist. With the increase in the numbers of clubs and the growing interest in competition motoring, it is becoming more and more obvious that some form of organisation is needed to prevent eventual chaos. The need for this organising of the clubs has already shown itself in the formation of the group of Northern Motor Clubs and the attempt to form a group of Southern Motor Clubs and more particularly in the meetings referred to at the beginning of this article. While there are nothing like as many motor clubs as there are motor-cycle clubs, thereby eliminating the need for so many Centres, there are sufficient to warrant the forming of, say, five Centres, each of which could be self-governing and responsible to the R.A.C. Competitions Committee. As a start I might suggest that South Eastern, South Western, Midland, North Eastern, North Western and Scottish Centres might be formed. In passing, I would mention that Scotland and Ireland both have their own A.C.U., each entirely separate from that governing England and Wales. In the same way that Non-Territorial motor-cycle clubs are formed, so would similar car organisations have to be admitted. For example, the B.R.D.C. and the Vintage Car Club, together with one-make car clubs would have to be Non-Territorial, but clubs such as the Little Slopton-under-Dundery Motor Club would be in the South Western Centre, while the Great Mudsliery-in-Spoondale Light Car Club, would be in the North Eastern Centre.

Each year it is becoming more obvious that the Competitions Committee of the R.A.C. are having a greater amount of work to do and more and more clubs to look after, and the time is rapidly approaching  when something will have to be done about the matter. While no one likes to admit to copying, if the basis is right then there is nothing wrong in benefiting by other’s experience and the organised motor-cyclist has proven the Centre system to be satisfactory. Next time your motor club meeting clashes with a motor-cycle event, don’t waste a lot of breath cursing the ‘wretched bog wheels,’ pause instead, and consider that motor-cycle club life and competitions are highly organised and perhaps the clash could have been avoided had your club been as well organised, not as in individual club, for doubtless it is well run, but organised in conjunction with all the other motor clubs, so that then the R.A.C. and the A.C.U. could work closer together, for the mutual benefit of everyone who considers the internal combustion engine a means of healthy enjoyment and not just a social amenity to be classed with the television set, or the vacuum cleaner.