The GBR Series - has it lost the respect?

There was a time in the not too distant past when the GBR Series was what every dry slope racer aspired to race in. Big fields, smiling faces and no other races on the same day clashing with rounds. 2019 sees the British Ski Academy sponsored series having to compete with Club Nationals and a feeling of disdain from governing bodies and clubs alike towards the whole series. Some race organisers have even muted the idea of abandoning the top level summer series all together. What needs to happen is the series needs to have an overhaul and be made more professional and exciting so as to help provide a step on the pathway to bringing racers through the system. Both the Indoor and Outdoor series need modernising and be run more professionally.

It seems rather ludicrous that in 2019 such a mainstay of the summer racing scene is run in a rather haphazard way. There is no Series Organiser, there is no one person that makes sure the series runs smoothly. For such a focal point of the summer racing scene to have no one person making sure that the series runs smoothly just reeks of amateurism and disdain to the racers, the sponsors and those involved in the sport. And to add to the disjointedness of the series, there is NO central entry system for the series. This gives even more confusion for those wanting to take part.

With the GBR Series now having an indoor and outdoor versions that combine to award an Overall series winner, surely the structure would warrant someone looking after each series and making sure that all the ‘i’s’ were dotted and ’t’s' were crossed for each round. On investigation it seems no one does this.

Last year Racer Ready passed on research to those who had been involved in the organisation of the 2018 GBR Series. The research looked at the comparison between the number of racers taking part in the series and the number of races each Home Nation was allotted. There was a disproportionate number of racers taking part across the series to the number of races allocated to Wales. This was mainly due to the combining of the Celtic Cup series with the Grand Prix series when the two series merged we were informed. Has this changed for 2019? No. Pontypool is the only slope to host two rounds on the outdoor series despite fewer racers from Wales taking part compared to either England or Scotland.

Scotland only hosts two races, one indoor and one outdoor yet these races attract healthy entries. If the GBR Series is to be truly National this MUST be looked at.

There was a time when no other races clashed with a GBR race (or Grand Prix race and Celtic Cup race in by gone times). This encouraged the better racers to attend the top level races. Last weekend a double header Club National at Gloucester clashed with the only outdoor round being hosted in Scotland. One of the top racers, and a serious contender for the Overall title, decided to go to the Club Nationals rather than the GBR race it was revealed. It was not only the top racers from the south that did not race but a lot of the leading racers from the north did not take part due to the diminishing appeal of the series.

While it is understood that many clubs use the Club National to raise funds to cover their year round costs, there are many ways of looking for funds available outside of hosting races. A google search for funding throws up many avenues available. However the lack of funds from hosting GBR races is starting to question whether clubs or facilities bid to run them, especially when there is significant volunteer time and expense required to run a successful race.

So what can be done to encourage more to take part in the Indoor and Outdoor series?

Is it time for the races to be revamped? Definitely. Many parents, club officials and racers have expressed this opinion.

To start with why not follow the idea from the world cup with the start lists. Why not reward loyalty to racing in the GBR series by looking back over the last year (a rolling year) and seeing how many points racers have scored in the last year in the GBR series and split the top 15 into a top seven and then eight to fifteen? The next 15 then start 16 to 30 and then after that they then go in seed point order. This is similar to how the World Cup start list is done.

In order to provide a little more excitement for the races, why not decide the age group awards and the race seed points from the main two run races with the Series points coming from a shoot out third run. The top 15 racers would qualify for this going in reverse time order with GBR Series points being awarded for the position they finish in. Places 16 to 30 could be awarded 15 down to 1 point but the top 15 would be awarded points as per the World Cup point scoring system (100 for 1st down to 16 for 15th). If more than one racer skied out on the third run their place would be determined by their combined time from the two run race.

Creating a fund for helping the racers with entry fees could also be created. This would not be a cash prize but held centrally and racers could apply for the funds to be transferred to cover race entries, for winter and summer entries.

Currently the GBR Series is run over five indoor and five outdoor rounds with a minimum penalty of 5. Why not include the National Championships in the series and make all races a zero penalty race? This would encourage, hopefully, more to take part in the series, especially with the opportunity to win money that could go towards their race entry fees.

Why not also produce special bibs for the series leader to wear to give them something to aim for? This is something that would help to inspire the younger racers to keep racing and also be more appealing to potential sponsors.

The last few years have seen the main series sponsor being an Academy or training group: Impulse, Ambition and for the last two summers, The British Ski Academy have been the title sponsors. The racers are definitely the Academies target market but with many racers already with one of the Academies, a non racing sponsor surely must be targeted. Easy to understand but hard to secure it is appreciated. Crystals have in the past supported the series.

Yes, these are just some ideas but it is time for the main NATIONAL series to be revamped in so many ways if the series is to evolve to encourage athletes of all ages and levels to stay in the sport.

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