• Daniel o'Donoghue

AusCycling - A WA Perspective

The hot topic in the Australian competitive cycling scene at the moment is AusCycling, or as it was previously known, One Cycling.

We need to get one thing out of the way the way upfront;

I absolutely, 100% support the amalgamation of the three National Sporting Organisations, (Cycling Australia, BMX Australia and Mountain Bike Australia) or NSO’s, into one unified entity servicing all competitive cyclists in Australia.

It just makes sense! All competitive cyclists represented by one national body, one license to race your bike across any of the competitive disciplines, pathways to move within the disciplines without potentially changing clubs, integrated clubs across multiple disciplines providing multiple high performance / talent ID pathways etc. This barely scratches the surface as the possibilities and opportunities are endless. Additionally, the potential cost and income benefits of amalgamation to the new, unified NSO would open up previously unavailable opportunities in areas like sponsorship and program delivery.

As a West Australian what I don’t agree with is the complete removal of the State Sporting Organisation (SSO) from the structure. I strongly believe in the retention of some form of the federated model as a non-negotiable. This doesn't mean a steering committee either.

Since its creation out of The Brown Report, WestCycle have been on a journey to build a state-based model that brings together all the disciplines to grow the voice of cyclists in WA. Think a local AusCycling to better service road and track clubs, to advocate and lobby for the funding of MTB trail development and to represent the interests of recreational cyclists from both an advocacy and an event perspective.

In the last twelve months both CycleSport WA and BWA (along with WA Mountain Biking Association) have seen the benefits of this locally integrated model and have rolled these organisations directly into WestCycle. The journey has only just started but we are already seeing significant benefits. We have hosted a national road championship (Junior Road Nationals) for the first time in a long time, we have the opportunity to possibly run another next year (Masters Road Nationals), the Element Series is bringing together competitive and recreational cyclists in the same event and we have seen The Ring grow into a genuine marquee event on the WA summer calendar.

In this time West Coast Masters have also become a member of WestCycle. It is my understanding that discussions have been ongoing around opportunities for one license which would allow WCMCC members the ability to compete in CA sanctioned events and vice versa. BMX WA and Triathlon WA are also members of WestCycle. Around 40% of WCMCC members currently also hold a CA license. The Masters category makes up the largest percentage of CA racing license holders. It stands to reason that both membership groups will benefit from a single licensing agreement. It is also my understanding that AusCycling have also formally engaged the AVCC on a similar agreement. I don’t have an understanding of AVCC’s position on the proposal.

It must be highlighted that MTBA, as the only NSO with a unitary model (no state body), have no affiliation or formal relationship with WestCycle. They also don’t have a state office in WA. Someone with more knowledge of the sport of mountain biking can tell me MTBA’s impact on mountain biking in WA. I know the competitive MTB scene is booming, but on the surface this seems to be as a result of some strong local clubs and some dedicated individuals and event organisers. MTBA’s impact seems negligible outside of taking membership fees and event capitation.

On the other hand, over the last five years WestCycle have had a huge impact on mountain biking through advocating for trail development, writing and implementing mountain bike facilities strategy and negotiating some pretty significant funding commitments from state government.

The initial focus on the investment was to conduct strategic planning which has now lead to significant trail projects.

· State MTB Strategy funded

· Significant dollars invested in resources to implement the recommendations of the State Strategic plan

· Perth and Peel MTB Master plan funded

· South West Master Plan funded

As a result of this planning phase, it has recently been announced that in Collie a $10m investment will create more than 180km of a high-quality mountain bike and hiking trails. This includes a 65km world-class 'epic' mountain bike trail network in the Wellington National Park. In Dwellingup an $8m investment to create a nationally recognised trail town with significant new trails.

Over the same period of time MTBA have not invested a cent in trail planning or advocacy in WA.

I see a number of significant risks in a unitary NSO structure.

Firstly, the number one source of funding for all forms of SSO's in cycling, outside of membership and sponsorship, is from the state government. The WA state government have already declared they will not fund an NSO running the sport locally. What happens to all the work that has been done around facilities development or the commitments on event support made to WestCycle? The state government also subsidise the day to day running of WestCycle through Operational Sustainability Payments (OSP). They will not pay this money to an NSO to fund its local office.

The second risk or cost is the loss of voice for riders and clubs in terms of advocacy and government policy. WestCycle already does these things for ALL of us. Minimum passing legislation is one example of WestCycle successfully lobbying for, and guiding the implementation of, policy on behalf of ALL WA cyclists. It is important to note that as a result of WestCycle’s advocacy WA now has highest per capita cycling infrastructure spending in Australia.

WestCycle have eleven staff across MTB, road and track, BMX and advocacy. What sort of presence will AusCycling have? Can they get the same local outcomes WestCycle have achieved?

Lastly, the proposed voting structure is based on members. So, WA will have just under 10% of the vote. Currently in the CA structure we have one vote out of seven, equal to all the other states and territories.

It is my understanding that to date the leadership of the NSO’s and Sports Australia have shown little interest in negotiating on structure. It seems (and I stand to be corrected) that it is unitary or nothing. There must be room to compromise for the sake of the sport and for cycling as an activity. This is a once in a generation opportunity to build a structure that will supercharge the growth of cycling in Australia. We need to get it right. In WA my belief is this means WestCycle delivering the AusCycle services to local members as well as continuing the excellent job they have done on facilities and advocacy. How this happens, either as an SSO or a contracted entity, can be negotiated. Either way these discussions have to happen sooner rather than later.

In WA we already have our mini AusCycling. We got this by engaging positively with government, SSO's, clubs and members and by WestCycle delivering outcomes. There were no threats, no brinkmanship and no standover tactics. We all need to come together now to get the best possible outcome for cycling. We can have disagreements on what this looks like but we need to be prepared to compromise.

One last word of caution for those engaging in the debate. Don’t get tied up in discussions around membership pricing. This is a distraction. The big picture is what AusCycling looks like, its structure and who delivers services and policy at the coal face. Membership pricing can get finalised once we have this sorted.

Daniel o'Donoghue

President, Roues Chaudes Cycling Club

About the author:

Daniel has been president of Roues Chaudes Cycling Club for ten years, was chair of CycleSport WA for five years and has actively been involved in cycling for more than fifteen years.

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