Despite my fiendishly clever plan to equip Shannon Johnson with a Contour action camera for the Adelaide National Road Series race, I have been brought undone by a rule I’m fairly certain no one understands; no cameras allowed!
So I have written to Sean Muir, the National Manager, Sport, Cycling Australia, Cycling Australia.
Recently I took up the opportunity to make a video report for Charter Mason Drapac Development Team at the Phillip Island GP event. Fortunately for me, CMDDT rider Shannon Johnson won the vent, thus giving me not only a good story to tell, but some awesome on board footage from the Contour + camera he had mounted on his bike.
The videos are here: http://thomasr.org/blog/2013/05/racing-with-sj/
After this race, I had a chat to a few people who remarked that they had never seen on board footage like it and that the video report was exactly the sort of thing that domestic racing in Australia needs.
Off the back of this single event I am looking at securing work with an NRS team and indeed am looking international as well.
I have been doing this sort of work for five years; with major V8 teams, tarmac and dirt rally and more recently with Australian Superbike racing as well. While V8s have strict rules around on board video (to protect their TV deal) Rally and Superbikes in fact encourage on board cameras and have a simple form and scrutineering process to facilitate it.
When I was told that on-bike cameras were banned at NRS events, I was somewhat suprised. There is no better way to create interest and excitement around the NRS than with video reports featuring on board action coming from every rider and team that can make such videos.
There may be a number of reasons for this, I would like to throw out a few ideas and address why they are not relevant nor valid for the NRS:
- Cameras aren’t safe in some way…
I am a user and ambassador for Contour Cameras. At the Phillip island GP event all three of CMDDT riders had a camera mounted under the head stem of their bike. With the cameras secured by stick on mount and back up cable tie, they are perfectly safe for racing, cannot hit anyone and indeed for Nick Katsonis, provided some insight into the incident that saw him leave the race early. If CA took the lead of Australian Superbikes, they too could have a simple disclaimer form and a simple guide to mounting cameras with a scrutineering process. Think of this process as cheap marketing.
- Protecting the TV rights.
V8 Supercars rightly ban team on board cameras for broadcast (all cars carry additional safety cameras not for broadcast but for analysis and revue). This is to protect their multi million dollar current TV and former web deal. Is CA protecting a TV deal? Here’s a tip; if the teams agree to provide their footage to CAs TV maker, then this will not only make them happy, but indeed enhance any coverage. This has been done in Australian Rally for many years.
- It’s a UCI rule.
This will no doubt be the rule that is impossible to get around and the most stupid. The UCI has enough on its hands with sock length and race radio rules to deal with without screwing over domestic racing in Australia. I understand that the UCI will have some rules that make sense and are for the benefit of the sport generally; this is not one of them. The V8 Supercar series has been famous for making its own rules to benefit the series and the teams involved. These rules have not always aligned with the national body (CAMS) nor international rules, but they just don’t care.
Ok so these may or may not be the reasons behind why you can’t carry an on board camera at NRS races. Here’s why you need to allow it:
- It will make the series famous.
As someone involved in motorsport I have been there as a team member when something awful awesome or weird happens and we have surfed a wave of publicity (even globally) because of it. If 1/4 of the field have a camera; it will happen eventually.
- It will encourage the teams to do more media/social media.
This is a natural progression. Currently, the NRS seriously lacks team media support. In the sports where I work, every major team has its own videographer and on board camera person. Once a few major teams get on board, others will feel compelled to get involved as well.
- Sponsors want to see it and will demand it.
Written race reports are dead. Many top teams (including at F1 level) don’t bother anymore. A two minute (simple) video report with additional longer videos for those who like to “dive deep” is the go. Sponsors will be attracted to the sports that can deliver in this manner. Cycling can and should ASAP.
- It will teach riders how to be professional sports people.
My biggest issue when I produce video reports (aside from quality on board footage) is that of sports people in front of camera. Some are naturals; most are not. If we can get NRS standard riders participating in video reports from day dot, then we make our riders more marketable and less shy when (and if) they hit the international stage.
- It will boost Australian Cycling websites
For the Phillip ISland GP event, Contour Australia gave a camera to Jarrod from www.pelotoncafe.com Jarrod is already well into the idea of on board video and other video. This will boost his site’s figures but also help to promote the NRS and other Australian cycling sites. While there is nothing stopping any site from producing video content, I need to restate; on board is where it is at.
- I can make more money
Yup, I have a conflict of interest…!
I am more than happy to discuss this further and hope to hear that you are able and willing to take positive steps,
UPDATE The response
I received a response from Sean Muir and when I asked if it was for publication, he referred me to Ben Godkin Head of Marketing and Communications, Cycling Australia. Ben’s response was on the money, but sadly constrained (as expected) by outdated and damaging UCI rules.
I’ve had a few discussions with Sean over the last two days regarding your letter
From my personal point of view I’d love cameras on the bikes because it would create some ripping content for me to market the NRS and there is certainly an appetite within CA to try and make this happen in some capacity sooner rather than later, but as you can appreciate we’re limited by the UCI to a certain extent.
Sean’s original email (an extract)
The reasoning behind why cameras are not allowed in, not only the NRS but all racing, is that the Cycling Australia Technical Commission has decided to abide by the UCI ruling on the matter. It was discuss many times last year, with riders, teams and SBS all pushing for the change to the ruling, but the Technical Commission’s decision stands and should be enforced at events in Australia.
The UCI have stated that they have put a panel together to review this matter, weighing up the positives and negatives. To date they are yet to release their findings, and make any changes to the international ruling.
And for now- that’s that.