Cash, Biscuits Or Nowt?

Inevitably, this column is bound to cover old ground, and that’s what has cropped up again this week, but I make no apologies for mentioning the subject of observers.

Over the past few days there have been several references to observers which has caused me to write about the subject again. Last weekend I was at the Bemrose Trial, talking with Doreen Rowland whose job it is to get as many observers as possible for the Bemrose and also the Dave Rowland Trial in July.

Naively, I asked her if she needed 20 observers, on the basis that they would do an early section then move onto a later one, and was told that the North Derbyshire Youth MCC (who run the trial in conjunction with Manchester 17 and Macclesfield and Hyde), need around 35.

From the experience of my own club, I know that it is a tremendously difficult task persuading folks to turn out week after week, frequently in appalling conditions, but sure enough, last Sunday every section was manned, though some observers did do more than one section through the day.

Then I read in TMX that the Torridge Club in Devon (my old hunting ground) will be paying observers a tenner at selected trials, and suggesting it may be controversial. Well it may be down in the south west, but up here in the chilly north, Bootle have been paying their observers at selected trials for a long while.

Which brings me to the point of asking the question, “how much is an observer worth?” I’ve written this before but I think that there should be some form of recognition paid to every single observer at every single trial. My club, Lancs County have a set policy. At Sunday trials we always supply every observer with a box of either biscuits or chocolates. Fortunately, the club’s treasurer is able to obtain such items easily, but so too is everybody else. You go to Tescos/Morrisons/Asda/Sainsburys etc and buy ten tins of biscuits, or however many you need. And at our Wednesday evening trials, which inevitably only last for just over a couple of hours, we allow them to have a burger/coffee from the refreshment truck.

I know some clubs reward all their observers with a voucher from the burger van, but that’s precious use when you are out observing for six hours, quite possibly 15 miles from the start of the trial. There is a good chance you don’t even return to the start once you’ve done your stint, and go straight home.

And then of course there are the clubs that do nothing, zilch, zero, and still hope to get enough observers to man every section. Even I’m mug enough to be persuaded do that at times when I don’t ride.

But why should that be the case? Let’s say for sake of argument it costs a club a fiver to reward each observer. That’s nothing in relation to the costs of running a trial. Most entries are £15 these days (at least they are in the north), and believe me, that type of income makes good money for a club – and anybody that suggests otherwise is misguided.

So why offer biscuits/chocolates instead of money? I believe that a tin of assorted snacks is far better than a ten pound note. More often than not the observer is a man and if he gets a tenner, it goes straight into his pocket. Nothing wrong with that, but if he takes home a tin of biscuits to the wife/girlfriend, then he will certainly have earned a few more brownie points than if he had cash. The biscuits can sit on the kitchen table until Wednesday and everybody benefits.

Never one to mince my words, let me tell you what really gets me angry. It’s the club that pays some of its members to run the event (nothing wrong with that) but then neglects to reward the observers. Now that really makes me hot under the collar.

So, to the clubs that reward their observers, well done, and to the clubs that don’t, IT’S TIME YOU DID!!