Australia’s National Sporting Authority President Andrew Papadopoulos, who is also President of the FIA ASN Development Task Force, explains the reasons of Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) being rebranded to Motorsport Australia and shares his thought on the difficulties the country’s motor sport scene has suffered from in the recent months.
FIA: CAMS is now known as Motorsport Australia, talk us through this change.
AP: Our new name, Motorsport Australia, clearly and accurately projects our role as the peak body of four-wheeled motor sport in Australia, as well as highlighting that we are a modern, progressive organisation. While everyone in motor sport knew what CAMS did, those who didn’t know a lot about motor sport wouldn’t necessarily have understood our role by our previous moniker.
Motorsport Australia gives a clear indication that we are the first stop for motor sport in Australia – and it brings us in to line with the majority of other sporting organisations in our country, such as Cricket Australia, Tennis Australia, Basketball Australia and so on. To us, this decision made complete sense and 2020 proved a perfect opportunity to make the change.
The economic impact studies we have undertaken show that motor sport has a significant role in boosting the Australian economy and providing a significant number of jobs across various roles.
However, these studies also highlight that the CAMS brand wasn’t as well-known as it could have been. This provided us with another reason to go through with the rebrand, and we believe there will be further increases in motor sport’s economic impact in Australia in the years to come.
FIA: The rebrand to Motorsport Australia came into effect on 1 January, how has the feedback been so far?
AP: We have been overwhelmed by the positivity both here in Australia but also globally. There were many people who have been involved with CAMS for decades and we thought some of these people may have been resistant to the change initially, however they have fully supported us and backed the decision.
We know there was plenty of support for this change, given the way we communicated the reasons for it, but also because of the Motorsport Australia Board’s strong desire to retain and remember the history of CAMS. Our new Motorsport Australia logo pays tribute to our previous CAMS logo, and also our history is honoured in everything we do.
The rebrand also tied in to the opening of our new national office in Melbourne, which also includes a physical home for the Australian Motorsport Hall of Fame. Our new office and Hall of Fame was opened to much fanfare in late-2019 and I was lucky enough to be joined by Australian FIA Formula 1 World Champion Alan Jones to officially open the building which our staff are extremely pleased with. I certainly encourage any of our FIA family to visit if they are ever in Melbourne.
FIA: Australia has been through some tough times in recent months, with COVID-19 of course, but also the bushfires in late-2019 and early 2020. How is Motorsport Australia managing this tough period?
AP: Australia has certainly been through some trying times and our motor sport family have certainly been impacted. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is hitting hard, as it is around the world, but we are confident that when things return to normal, Motorsport Australia will be ready to go and we expect one of the busiest periods for the sport in recent history with so many event organisers choosing to postpone their events rather than cancel – this is a positive sign to us that when things return, they will do so with much fanfare.
The bushfires were also a very difficult time for us as a country, and also those involved in the sport. We know a number of our clubs and facilities were hit hard by this natural disaster and we continue to remain at our clubs’ disposal to assist where we can as they rebuild.
Most notably, the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Kennards Hire Rally Australia, had to be cancelled in the week of that event as the bushfires hit the Coffs Harbour region where the event was to be held. The lives and properties of those in the impacted area were our first priority, as well as the safety of our own people (including teams and drivers), and we know cancelling the event was the right thing to do, despite the fact all teams and drivers had already arrived in the country.
While it was a horrible time for Australia and the NSW region in particular, our spirits were lifted by the way in which the rally community came to the aid of those who were in the line of fire. We saw significant donations from teams and drivers, including a large donation from Toyota.
Drivers and their crews also did so much hard work while on the ground, which included delivering water and food to local firefighters, as well as hosting autograph sessions and providing priceless memorabilia to be auctioned to support those in Coffs Harbour and nearby, as well as raise vital funds for the victims of the bushfires, including the native wildlife who were also hit hard.
FIA: Another international event had to be postponed recently, tell us about the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2020. How did the cancellation of that event impact you and your people?
AP: First and foremost, I would like to pay tribute to our loyal Motorsport Australia officials who did everything possible to ensure the event was in a position to run if it went ahead. Despite various incorrect news reports on Friday morning (Australian time) that the event was cancelled at that time, more than 900 of our dedicated officials still turned up on Friday morning and headed to their positions ready for track action to begin, prior to any official decision having been made about whether the event was going ahead. It would have been so easy for them to all stay home, but they were at our muster station ready to go at 7am on Friday morning and it was very heart-warming for us to see.
Of course a number of strict precautions were in place during the time the event did run, and led by our Chief Medical Officer Dr Brent May, all officials were provided with key information about COVID-19 and how they could reduce the risk of infection, and also understanding how they could safely manage their own workspaces.
Ultimately, the FIA, Formula 1 and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation made the decision to call off the event on Friday morning, and we fully supported their decision.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank FIA Deputy President Graham Stoker who came and spoke to our officials once the event had been officially called off. Many have since contacted me saying how grateful they were for him to pass on his thanks on behalf of everyone at the FIA. It’s times like these when you certainly see how much care and support the FIA network offers to its people.
On behalf of everyone at Motorsport Australia, I hope those reading this, as well as their families, are safe, fit and healthy.