In early 2021, Canada’s moto mags picked up a story that just sounds like backroom squabbling in a motorcycle backwater—at least, at first. But if you’re a Canadian rider, it’s potentially big news; depending on how this issue plays out, it could help Canada get a lot more notice in the global motorcycle scene. It’s especially important for the country’s top racers.
The news: In late January, the FIM held a vote on expelling the Canadian Motorcycling Association (CMA) as the country’s national representative. The majority of FIM members backed the vote, but it did not get the required percentage to pass. Because of that, the CMA is still the FIM’s national affiliate, and the competing offer from the Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada (MCC) was not considered.
First, let’s look at all the players, and their roles:
FIM: The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) is an international motorsports sanctioning body. Basically, the FIM makes and enforces the rules for international motorcycle racers (MotoGP, World Superbike, Speedway, Super Enduro, etc.). The FIM also lays out guidelines for regional or national motorcycle series that want to collaborate, through national affiliates. This makes it easier for racers to travel between countries; an American roadracer can move from MotoAmerica to World Superbike with little bureaucratic hassle because both are FIM series.
CMA: The CMA is Canada’s national FIM affiliate, and has been for many decades. This means that, for Canadian racers to compete in an FIM series, they must go through the CMA. Along with sanctioning offroad and roadracing competition at the national level, making sure they’re run safely and along with FIM guidelines, the CMA also has a role of promoting motorcycle safety and training and club-level motorcycle events.
MCC: The MCC was organized in the mid-2000s, when Canadian motorcycle industry insiders became unhappy with the CMA’s actions and level of activity. Right now, an MCC tribunal mediates grievances for most of Canada’s serious racing series. Currently, the MCC membership is made up of racers and industry insiders, but the MCC plans to introduce a membership plan for average Joe riders.
What really happened in January?
In January, when the FIM held a vote to expel the CMA from its role, they planned a second vote. If the CMA got the boot, the FIM would have then proposed to replace them with the MCC.
This was no rogue attempt by wild-eyed moto madmen. The American Motorcyclist Association rep and other major FIM players backed it, and it won a 43-19 majority of the vote. A big loss for the CMA, right? Wrong—FIM rules demand a 2/3 majority of all members pass such a vote, and 11 members abstained. So, the CMA stays on as the Canadian affiliate, and the MCC never got its chance.
Why did the vote happen?
Why are FIM insiders and Canada’s industry insiders looking to replace the CMA with the MCC?
This vote was the result of decades of dissatisfaction with the CMA. As far back as the 1980s, race organizers were at odds with the CMA. The MCC was founded when insiders tried to work through the issues and decided it was easier to start from scratch in the mid-2000s. In the past few years, Canadian Superbike, Triple Crown motocross, and other series started working with the MCC instead of the CMA. The MCC doesn’t exactly sanction races; instead, the series run their own rulebooks, and an MCC tribunal rules on issues that arise between racers and organizers.
The CMA sanctions some trials competition and ice racing, but are not involved with any of the country’s major series. That’s a problem if you’re a Canadian who wants to race abroad. You could be the fastest MXer in Canada, but you can’t go to an FIM series without passing through the CMA. The paperwork is doable, and Canadians do race internationally, but it is an extra layer of bureaucracy. Also, if you want to race abroad, you’ll want insurance, and the FIM’s insurance is pretty much a no-brainer in that case. Again, that’s available through the CMA in Canada.
The situation also makes it more difficult to bring events like the Motocross des Nations to Canada, if the country’s best racers aren’t actually involved with the CMA. Note that Canada hasn’t had a World Superbike round since 1991. AMA Supercross hasn’t returned to Canada since 2017. To be clear, the CMA doesn’t necessarily carry the blame for those big-ticket moto events leaving Canada. But the fact is, they’re gone, and the national moto-advocacy organization has not affected their replacement. There is no international motorcycle racing of any kind in Canada. You can’t blame it on a lack of facilities; Mosport might not work for World Superbike, but Supercross used to race at the Rogers Centre, and Canada certainly has no lack of terrain for hard enduro. Rightly or wrongly, insiders say the CMA is a big reason why international racing doesn’t come to Canada anymore.
There are other complaints about the CMA. Some say the organization doesn’t do enough to promote motorcycling at a grassroots level, or that it doesn’t properly address motorcyclists’ problems with rising insurance rates, or government restrictions. Again, we must be fair here: You hear complaints like this about any motorcycling organization or any NGO in general. However, in the CMA’s case, these complaints have been around for a very long time.
What happens next?
The MCC was understandably disappointed in the result of January’s vote, but its organizers soon issued a press release saying it would continue its bid for FIM affiliation. The organization’s leadership is working on expanding the MCC’s membership in the coming months, and the plan is to ultimately offer membership to any Canadian motorcyclist. This is an important milestone; if the organization is to represent Canadian motorcyclists, there needs to be some level of accountability to the riders themselves.
As for the CMA, it said it’s still business as usual for Canadian racers: “All services for Canadian riders seeking any FIM licensing concerns are being carried out by the CMA as usual along with all other FIM duties.”
The MCC is keen to press the affiliation issue again at the FIM’s 2021 general meeting. However, there’s been one major change since the January vote.
In March, Marilyn Bastedo retired from her CMA role; currently, Holly Ralph is the organization’s CEO. Ralph is both a motorcycle owner and rider. She worked with Canadian pro roadracing series in the 1980s, and reportedly owns vintage bikes as well. Although I’ve been unable to initiate much dialogue with her, she does seem to have more respect in the community.
No doubt this leadership change will influence where all this controversy heads. Over the years, there have been attempts at a CMA/MCC merger. With Bastedo gone, will that happen? If so, nobody from either camp has said anything to me about it, but I’d expect the FIM to push for this.
But one thing seems sure: Thanks to changes inside the MCC and CMA, the current situation will change in the coming months, no matter what. Whatever happens afterward will hopefully be a massive improvement for Canadian racers. If the MCC follows through on its plan for a general membership option, then everyday riders seem more likely to benefit as well.