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We need cash to improve safety, not pointless debate

By Phillip McCallen

Race director Mervyn Whyte stirred up a hornet’s nest in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday with his call for the North West, and other established local events, to be treated equally, in terms of funding handed out by government to the big once-in-a-while sporting attractions.

Mervyn must have struck a chord as the publicity seekers jumped on the anti-road racing bandwagon, claiming the North West should not be publicly funded.

I do question the motives of those who emerge from the woodwork this time every year to snipe at our sport.

If they really cared as passionately about banning road racing as we do about promoting the sport, surely they would be spearheading a year-round campaign. Could it be they are less opposed to road racing and more attracted to air-time?

For me, Guy Martin perfectly summed up every rider’s attitude and gave the critics their answer in that great road racing film, TT: Closer To The Edge. “No one forces us to do it,” Guy said, and he is right.

Road racing is dangerous, but we go into it with our eyes open, knowing the risks and aiming to manage them.

Those who follow the sport know that, and turn out in their thousands in appreciation. That’s what has made the North West a global event, watched by 800m on TV and boosting the economy here by around £10m.

That is why Mervyn pointed out the event, costing £800,000 to run and just breaking even, is deserving of financial assistance on a par with occasional events.

The irony, for the critics who claim the North West should not be funded at all because it is dangerous, is that more funding makes it less dangerous.

The North West needs hard cash, not cheap sound bites.

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