When I saw on the front page of Trials Central that Jake Miller was having a rant, I thought “this should be interesting”, but having read it, Jake has been very restrained. I speak with Jake on an occasional basis as we have known each other for nearly 30 years. Our first encounter was when I stayed at his home in Colchester prior to the East Anglian National sidecar trial, and of course back then, Jake was still a schoolboy.
In the years since then he has made a living from trials as a mechanic for Steve Colley and others, as a freelance journalist and more recently as a promoter with his own media company that is deeply involved with bike sport, both trials and motocross.
What I find difficult to accept is that some folks seem to bear him a grudge because he has been successful and has made a living from the sport; it’s almost as if they feel, “yes it’s OK to go mechaniching, doing some journalism and organise some events, but don’t you dare to make a living out of it”.
If you think I’m being harsh, then you haven’t had your ear to the ground and don’t mix within the same circles as I do.
Now before I write more, let’s get this clear. This column that I produce every week is currently sponsored by the UK World Trial i.e. Jake and his company, and let me state categorically that whatever I write are my own opinions and are not biased either for or against G2F, L + M Promotions or Jake Miller. And if you believe differently, then you certainly haven’t followed my 40 odd years in bike journalism.
Anyway, back to Jake’s rant. It was far too mild mannered. I expected him to tell it as it really is, instead he gently touched on a few subjects that people have moaned about instead of going out all guns blazing. I suppose to be fair that he’s not in a position to say too much, but believe me, he has a lot more to be angry about.
We’ll not hide the obvious. Promoting the world trial (and next year’s Trial des Nations and the 2012 world trial) has to be profitable. Long, long gone are the days when a club full of volunteers can promote such an event. I’ve said that before, and it’s true. There are simply too many obstacles in the way for a volunteer to overcome. Funding is needed no matter where the trial is held, be it in the Scottish Highlands or the centre of Birmingham, and with funding comes responsibilities – toilets, grandstands, health and safety issues, media facilities, electricity generation, catering, parking – the list goes on and on. And these facilities can only be provided by a professional organisation with the knowledge and funding to provide them.
You may not like the idea, but it’s a fact of life. A world championship trial is essentially no different from a world championship motocross or road race meeting. We know the motocross side is a recipe for losing loads of cash whilst the road races are obviously held at permanent circuits. So if anyone is going to organise a world trial and not to suffer a massive loss, then charges must be made for attendance, trade stands and all the peripherals associated with the organisation of such an event.
And it’s these charges that I fear have caused the greatest antagonism. The trouble is, it’s not so long ago that to see a world trial we all headed to Morlais Quarry, Merthyr, or to Bainbridge, or to Pateley Bridge or to Petersfield and even to Hawkstone in the early days of world trials there, where costs associated with spectating were absolutely minimal. Not any more, admission charges are in line with other events of similar status. They have to be, it’s as simple as that.
Costs are not the only moans Jake has had to listen to. People seem to think it’s possible to run a world trial anywhere. If it was, I doubt we would all be heading to Fort William for three years. The venue is certainly great, but ideally it’s 250 miles too far away and if there was a suitable venue closer to central England, I’m sure Jake and his team would have found it and negotiated a deal.
Having said all the above, a satisfying number of people have funded their tickets for this year’s trial which takes place in less than two weeks, and with day tickets available, the attendance looks to be pretty good. And it has to be said, there’s a lot on for your money throughout the three day weekend.
Will it be a success? I hope so and if it is, I’ll say so and give my honest opinion for what it’s worth. Equally, if problems arise then that too will be covered. But don’t take my word for it. Get yourself up to Scotland and see for yourself. You know it makes sense.