We speak to the CEO of MTBA, Shane Coppin, just after he received confirmation that his organisation would be recognised by the ASC as a NSO.
Earlier today it was announced that the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) would recognise MTBA as a national sporting organisation (NSO). We caught up with the CEO, Shane Coppin, to ask a few questions and find out what this news means to the mountain biking federation.
RIDE: I’m talking with Shane Coppin who is the CEO of MTBA. And he received some news today from the Australian Sports Commission that I think probably puts a smile on his face. Can you explain what went down earlier?
Shane Coppin: “We’ve been working with the sports commission for quite a while now and we’ve finally gotten to a point where they have granted MTBA recognition as a national sporting organisation for mountain biking in Australia.”
An ‘NSO’ as they become known in the trade has got considerable influence; it’s going to change the funding model for your organisation a fair bit, won’t it?
“It has the potential to do that – that’s not necessarily the driving motivation today. Obviously, if that was to ever come about that would be a benefit but the critical thing is that [the ASC] has now recognised mountain biking as an equivalent sport within many other sports on the environment.
“Hopefully it will allow us to open many doors, gain recognition through state governments and all those agencies, and just see the sport get the recognition, support and growth that it needs nationally.”
Is this a precedent case – like, for example, is diving under the umbrella of Swimming Australia? I’m trying to draw comparisons with other sports…
“Individually they’re all a little bit different and I don’t know all the ins and outs of all NSOs but [MTBA] is probably very similar to BMX, insofar as BMX is recognised in their own right.
“Diving, water polo and a few of those other sports are but there is also an element where there is a national organisation – which, in our case, is Cycling Australia – who are recognised by the UCI, and will continue to be, as the national federation for cycling in Australia.
“We’re very keen to work collaboratively with Cycling Australia into the future so we will recognise them from that point.
“But for our sport nationally it gives us that recognition as the body responsible for mountain biking in Australia.”
Shane Coppin… the CEO of MTBA (above) who was notified today of some developments for mountain biking in Australia.
It’s been a big year for mountain biking. Not only is there a huge growth in participation but you hosted, for example, the mountain bike world championships in Cairns in September. Can you talk about the growth of mountain biking in Australia and give people who follow RIDE Media – who maybe came to cycling through the road – and idea of what MTBA is all about?
“We like to say that we are healthy lifestyle family fun activity that happens to be a sport that then links into Commonwealth and Olympics – potential medals.
“There are numerous world championships; mountain biking is obviously a very broad sport where we have a number of disciplines that are outside the Olympic model, with downhill and gravity enduro…
“The sport as a whole, though, is just… it’s more of a lifestyle activity than a sport in some ways. It has been taken up in so many forms and so many environments and so many communities, with destination tourism on the back of it, with people just going out to explore trails; people are pursuing it for healthy family/community interaction.
“It really is going through a continued, significant growth. But it is also transferring very much into an industry of its own right with some of the elements MTB riding is now crossing over into.”
How will the news today alter your remit?
“Our remit will stay the same insofar as we’re continually trying to grow our organisation for the benefit of all our members and for the broader community that participate in mountain biking.
“Again, I want to reiterate: funding models don’t change at this stage – and that was never the key driver of this, and that needs to be clear… but I hope that what this means is that mountain biking will now be seen legitimately as a strong, healthy, active, sport/activity to be taken seriously.
“And hopefully it will help many of our clubs, constituents and groups all gain funding on the back of some of what this recognition at a national level may mean to them.”
Is it a little breath of fresh air to be given a little independence?
“We already had quite a lot of independence. We recognise the need for Cycling Austalia. We are supportive of Cycling Australia. We need them to be successful for our benefit, as much as everybody else [in the cycling community].
“We hope that through this we can help build a better relationship with them and we hope that through this recognition [from the ASC] it may help with that endeavour.”
Do you see the NSO title as paving the way for more racing or greater participation… how does it allow MTBA to grow outside the sporting spectrum?
“This, for us, is very much about participation. We wanted to gain this recognition so that when we talk to government – be it at state level, or local level – we can continue to push mountain biking as a healthy lifestyle activity that encompasses preventative health, as something that you do on your own or in the company of others… and just continue to grow the sport and the places to ride and the opportunities.
“We are very much member funded. Our model is driving very much by broadening that base of participation and through that – the stronger we build that, the more sustainable we can make our sport – the high performance side of things can all spin off it.
“But it is primarily about giving us that legitimacy in the community to grow our participation base and be taken seriously in that space.”
– Interview by Rob Arnold