British Rally Championships: Wales centre Scott Williams backs plea to Welsh government

By Rhys WilliamsBBC News
Wales forests have long been a staple of British and World Rally Championships
Wales' forests have long been a staple of British and World Rally Championships

Wales rugby player Scott Williams is calling on the Welsh Government to allow the Welsh leg of the British Rally Championships to go ahead in July.

Organisers say they will soon have to cancel unless they receive an indication crowds for outdoor summer events will be increased.

Ospreys centre Williams owns a motorsport company he says is affected.

"The earlier they know if those events can go ahead, the better." he said.

"The amount of time and effort that goes in to organising such events, not just rallying, it's months of prep work and organisation which a lot of people are doing that are not getting any money out of it, and then for that to be cancelled last minute it does have an effect." said Williams whose company prepares cars for rallies.

The Welsh round, due to take place in Builth Wells on 10 July, is the second leg of the British Championships which begins in England next month.

Organisers say they need to make a decision by 17 May when entries open, as it is when they start "more prominent expenditure" needed to organise the event.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said the First Minister will set out any changes to the current regulations following the three week review on Friday.

From Monday, 30 people can take part in organised outdoor activity in Wales, but any further increase in numbers has yet to be announced.

A "potential stadia event" is being considered by the Welsh Government as part of a pilot scheme for the return of crowds to sporting events in Wales, with test events scheduled for May.

Rally organiser Neil Cross is frustrated that rallies in England are already going ahead, while the Welsh leg in July is still in doubt.

"We've got our route planned…our landowners are on board, we're on board with Powys County Council and Builth Wells Town Council, they're providing immense support to us, we just need clarity on whether we can run."

Scott Williams
Wales centre Scott Williams has run a motorsport company preparing cars for rallies for the last five years

Mr Cross says he is confident the event in mid-Wales is "covid-secure" because it is outdoors, and stressed it also brings huge benefits to the mid-Wales economy.

"We're out in the open, we run up on the Epynt ranges. Spectators have got plenty of room to move around, they haven't all got to be cramped into a football style stadia arena. We're fairly confident we can be as safe and secure from covid as is humanly possible.

"As an organising team we bring about 50 people to the area who we put up in bed and breakfasts.

"170 crews are competing and there's two competitors in each crew, they usually bring in two or three service personnel as well. The majority of them will stay locally in bed and breakfasts and hotels.

"We bring a massive amount of people, we've got spectators that come in. We've got around 300 marshals that are looking to come in as well."

Williams, who has been capped 58 times for the Wales rugby team, agrees and said outdoor events should be given clarity for the summer.

"I've been quite fortunate as a professional rugby player that I've still been able to play rugby but yes I think so, not just rallying," Williams said.

"I think the messaging is for other sports to go ahead, we can see the cases dropping significantly and everyone has done really well, it's been a long time and I understand it's a very difficult time but I think for some more things should get back to normality."

Former British Rally Champion Damian Cole agreed it is not just rally events suffering through a lack of clarity.

"Everything from equestrianism, motorsport, all other sport and music events, everything else that needs prior organising," said Cole who is part of the organising team for the Welsh leg of the British Championships.

"None of the organisers are getting any clarity from Welsh Government as to whether these events can go ahead and it's no good being told at the end of June for instance that yes you can now run in July, because at that point all the events in July and August will have already been cancelled."