Features 17 Jun 2014

Industry Insight: Motorcycling Australia's Dale Gilson

New MA CEO's take on the sport as it stands and more.

Motorcycling Australia (MA) has undergone major changes to date in 2014, representing a pivotal time in the sport nationally across all disciplines. With former Speedway Australia CEO Dale Gilson replacing longstanding MA CEO David White at the helm, Gilson takes on the task of ensuring a sustainable future while striving to build the success of each aspect of the sport. Read our first exclusively-published interview with Gilson now on both MotoOnline.com.au and CycleOnline.com.au.

Image: Russell Colvin.

Image: Russell Colvin.

First of all, thank you for your time today. To start with, tell us about yourself and where you came from.

Thanks, Alex. My most recent experiences include time as the CEO of Speedway Australia, and prior to that as CEO of Four Wheel Drive Victoria. I have also had involvement with Netball Victoria, Table Tennis Victoria and I have a lot to do with cricket in a voluntary capacity. Before entering the sporting industry 14 years ago, I worked in the technology industry in sales, marketing and management positions.

How closely have you followed motorcycling racing prior to joining Motorcycling Australia?

I haven’t followed it with any greater degree than I will with the World Cup, the recent French Open, AFL, State of Origin, Formula 1, T20 and the recent cricket Test series etc. What I am saying is, I love it all. Having grown up in Melbourne, how can a person not love all sport? So I do enjoy the MotoGP and Marquez has been amazing this series, and obviously we are hoping Jack Miller keeps going strong. I watch a lot more speedway these days too having spent nearly five years as their CEO. I also attempt to watch American football as often I can, so I am clearly addicted to all sport.

What does the day-to-day role of MA CEO consist of during regular weeks?

It changes from year to year. Right now, only five weeks in, it is all about meeting with stakeholders, sponsors, staff, the commissions, state bodies etc. I need to have a clear understanding of the organisation and the issues MA is faced with and from there a clear action plan will develop. At this point, both subtle and not so subtle changes are already starting to take place, and in time to come, I expect people will see positive change emanating from the offices of MA.

In general, how do you see the current state of the sport in Australia as it stands?

There is definitely a shift in the choices people have when it comes to their leisure time, so this is having an impact. Overall I would say that motorcycling is still very much an integral part of Australia’s culture, but certainly some disciplines are not as strong as they once were, and others have become stronger. It’s a great industry to be part of and it certainly has become more professional at all levels in relation to the administration side.

Image: Andrew Gosling.

Image: Andrew Gosling.

Are there any major things on the agenda that require immediate attention that you can detail?

I know there are a number of issues that are prominent in people’s minds such as the ASBK and Barrabool. We will obviously be addressing these, but for me everything is major, and I need to be working on all areas of the business concurrently. There is quite a bit to do to get to where I think MA should be.

Two series that have been in the news constantly over the past number of years have been the Australian Superbike (ASBK) and Supercross (ASX) championships. Do you have any specific updates regarding their future at this point?

I believe Australia needs strong national race series and that we need an elite level of competition that our license holders can aspire to. We are looking at the performance of both these series to see how we can improve them in the future.

In terms of Supercross, the proposed three-event (six-round) series due to be announced by International Entertainment Group seems to have been received positively. Is that an ideal platform for the series to build from in Australia?

It is difficult for me to discuss this series at present as there are still ongoing discussions as to how the series will look.

Although IEG has been removed from ASBK promotions, they are still in charge of the ASX series. Some people have asked what the reason is behind that decision. And of course, not many people are putting their hands up to run the series themselves…

IEG were no longer in a position to run both series to the level required and expected. We are still in discussions with IEG regarding supercross and I expect any announcements on that within the next few weeks.

Image: Grant Reynolds.

Image: Grant Reynolds.

Firming the calendar and series structure sooner must be a priority for 2015, correct?

Yes, of course. I would have thought this time of year we should be talking about 2015, not 2014.

MA’s most recent board of director’s report mentioned the possibility of coordinating the ASBK with individual clubs or promoters. Is this the most probable structure moving forward?

Moving forward we are discussing a number of possibilities both internally and externally and this is one of those options.

The Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC) is coordinated by MA utilising clubs, isn’t it? That series seems to be gaining strength, but unlike the Superbikes, there are no direct competitors so it’s difficult to compare.

Yes, it’s coordinated with clubs and state championship events.

Have you considered, or is MA in discussions, to merge with Australian Road and Track Rider Promotions so we have one national series?

I personally have not had any discussions with ARTRP, although there has been some unofficial discussions between MA and ARTRP staff. All options are on the table as far as I’m concerned and the outcome should be what is best for the sport and its members, I hope we can deliver that.

Image: Deus Images.

Image: Deus Images.

How long do you envisage it will take to make the ASBK profitable?

That’s a difficult question and something I cannot predict. I need some time to understand what has happened in the past and what we can to do to improve not just ASBK but all disciplines.

Speaking of the AORC, that series and the MX Nationals are two of the most stable championships. Are they the benchmark?

In my short time here they certainly appear to be the most successful series we have. I hope we can support these series and their promoters to improve them further. I would like to think all championships can be as successful as these.

And from what we understand, Williams Event Management (WEM) will remain MX Nationals promoter for the long term in an extension of their agreement?

Yes WEM have an agreement to run MX nationals for a number of years.

One final thing, dirt track has a rich history in producing quality Australia riders and we’re seeing a real upswing in interest there – largely thanks to Troy Bayliss in recent seasons. How important do you believe this discipline is in the landscape of motorcycle sport?

Again being so new to this sport it’s difficult for me to come to any real conclusion on discipline specifics, however seeing our former world champions like Troy Bayliss being able to stay in the sport and lift the profile of dirt track like he has is wonderful to see.

Thank you once again, we hope to stay in touch as you continue to assist in the progression of the sport locally.

Thanks, Alex.