They say that a new broom sweeps clean and this certainly appears to be the case with the FIM. Just before Christmas its new new President, Jorge Viegas, provided a shock for the International trials world with the announcement that:
“Further to recent discussions between the two respective parties, the FIM and Sport7 can confirm that by way of mutual agreement and with immediate effect, management of the FIM Trial World Championship, the FIM Women’s Trial Championship and the FIM Trial des Nations, including all associated classes and FIM World Cups has been passed to the FIM.”
“It has been an incredible couple of years at the helm of TrialGP,” said Sport7 boss Jake Miller. Undoubtedly much has been achieved in a relatively short period of time, all of which we can be proud of. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Sport7 staff, associates, partners and not forgetting the riders for making it such an amazing experience.”
Final details are currently being confirmed but it’s expected that the 2019 calendar will remain unchanged. “The FIM would like to thank Sport7 for its good work over the last two seasons,” said new FIM President Jorge Viegas. “The FIM is excited to have the Trial World Championship back in its care and will do its utmost to ensure that the series continues to enjoy ongoing improvement.”
I have been following the World Championships closely since 1980 so feel justified in making the following observations.
Just two years ago the FIM, faced with decreasing entries and little interest in the Trial World Championship after years of stagnation made the bold decision to hand over the future of the series to a private promoter, Sport7, headed by Brit Jake Miller.
The series had been frankly going nowhere and in a nutshell Sport7 gave it a tremendous kick into the 21st century. The classes were renamed and reconfigured, TrialGP, Trial2 and Trial125 and this gave World Championship trials a very similar format and feel to its successful siblings MotoGP and MXGP – both series which are, of course, run by private promoters.
Trial2 in particular was given a breath of fresh air, becoming a 250cc World Championship in its own right (again, that feel of MotoGP and MXGP). The event format was then changed to a single trials day (in Europe – flyaways were two days) with the previous day allocated to an exciting new Qualifying format with all competitors riding a section against the clock.
This served multiple functions. It was fresh and new, it gave ALL riders a fighting chance of a favoured place at the back of the draw – not just the same top few – and it also gave the organisers something to feed online and to social media followers.
The latter was something that Sport7 really wanted to take advantage of and build on as an integral, important part of going forward. Yes, event spectators are important but in the 21st century everyone in the world now demands instant access and gratification and this new, quickfire format was perfect for that purpose.
And the introduction of instant online scoring was pure science fiction against the previous pencil and card manual operation. Each event was given a slick professional facade as Sport7 invested in a clever, modulised mobile TrialHQ that doubled as a press centre.
This was light years ahead of what had gone before. The magic word of course is Professional. Sport7 also engaged an experienced crew which attended each and every round to ensure a continuity never even approached previously.
All this is simple fact. Of course, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. And not everyone was happy, with some riders and teams (not to mention certain FIM officials with their noses out of joint) making a fuss, especially from the top riders in the early days as they saw their built-in advantage erroded with the Qualification system.
Yes, a lot of feathers were ruffled and there has been plenty of ongoing bitterness and tale-telling. But exactly why the FIM has decided to dispense with Sport7 after two years of positive transformation will probably never be known and we can all only speculate.
If the exciting game-changing innovations that Sport7 had implemented remain, why not leave Sport7 to nurture them and finish the job that they started?
Given that the FIM had presided over a stagnant (and that is being charitable) TWC just two short years ago it will be interesting to see exactly what has changed in that time in the corridors – well, the trials corridor anyway – of power in Geneva.
We look forward to 2019 with interest.