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The role of the stewards, part two

Previously, we looked at the role of the stewards, and the potential backlash they can receive when the decisions are contested. When the league is the size of PSGL, they potentially have greater resources at hand to handle the large number of incidents that are raised each week, but what about smaller organisations? Is the approach any different? I spoke to Jessica Ball, steward for VSL (alongside her long list of commentary duties) for insight into this.

How long does it take to go through the stewarding process for VSL?

We usually leave the steward’s office open for 24-48 hours after the race and then depending on how many incidents they are, we usually look at them the day after that. We get the steward’s results done one or two days after we looked at the incidents, so it gives all stewards a chance to voice their thoughts, as well as the drivers to send their POVs in response to a report.

What’s the process for going through an incident?

We open up a channel on our discord called incident submissions They use a template which includes the link to the clip, timestamp, lap it happened, incident description and who’s involved.

How do the stewards approach these issues? Is anything different if, for instance, the decision could impact the championship result?

We never had a situation where there were reports during a championship decider, but we treat all incidents equally and apply the same ruling. If it’s a serious incident, then serious consequences can occur. For instance, last week we had someone take someone else out on purpose. They got banned from the league.

When the stewarding is questioned, especially publicly, how do you manage that?

The driver questioning it gets contacted and is allowed to say privately why they think it’s unfair. The stewards speak in detail about why the decision was made. Nine times out of ten, the driver accepts it and moves on. And if they don’t, we look at the rulebook to see if we can make the ruling less vague, so incidents like that don’t happen again.

 

Whilst the stewards from leagues like PSGL and VSL approach their stewarding post-event, time isn’t particularly a luxury due to the volume of incidents that these leagues have to investigate, so how does the process change when the stewarding is conducted live? Dave Hedges from SimSport Solutions explains their process.

What are the challenges that live stewarding presents that are different to post-race stewarding?

Time is limited especially for sprint races, depending on whether you are using a stewarding tool or via a reporting system these can make you limited to a few minutes per decision. All stewards need to be able to operate the sim replays as there may be a requirement for multiple incidents being reviewed at the same time A rule book needs to be fairly well structured to ensure that they can be applied quickly and correctly the first time, post-race stewarding allows some degree of discussion, this was especially true when we first starting stewarding and creating rules as the penalties had to be developed over time. We can adopt the same or similar principles to real-life racing but there are distinct differences between Community racing and competitive sim racing.

In my experience live stewarding can be a little easier regarding implementing penalties, there are fewer challenges to the penalties since they are already applied. In the ETeam Brit series, any live penalties could not be appealed, only a post-race penalty. It kept the process streamlined. Stewards are generally volunteers or low paid so ensuring speed and efficiency is best for the broadcasts and the overall management of the process

When the stewarding of an event or series is brought into question, how do you manage that?

Usually suggest that they take a step back and look at an incident from the other driver’s perspective and also identify if there was anything else they could have done to avoid it. If the challenge persists then we invite them to provide additional information which may not have been present to the stewards, I.E. internet issues that may not have been seen on a replay. Failing that a meeting on discord for them to air in a constructive manner their appeal. Eventually, we will remind them that the stewarding decisions are carefully made using experienced drivers and stewards and that in most cases the decision is final. If they go too far, remind them of their conduct and the expectations of the race series/community

 

Our own race control operates in a similar fashion, as Paw Lindegaard explains.

It’s not easy. When we make a decision about a penalty, we understand that some teams and drivers disagree with the stewards, and think we only take decisions about penalties out for the video link the team sends in. Let me be very clear, the only thing we are using the link for is to be sure we are seeing the right accident. Every time, we go back on the replay so we see it from all angles, to get the best view and to give the right decision. 
We offer to send video back to the teams if they disagree with the stewards, and always when we give a penalty, we inform the team in Teamspeak. That’s why it is so important the team have a crew member in their team TS channel, and sometimes the team don’t have that. Then we just give the penalty when the car next passes the start-finish line. 
When the stewarding is questioned, the teams need to learn that there are human beings involved, so there shouldn’t be a need to call people names and things like that. There are multiple people involved, and the regulations are very clear before the season even begins, so the stewards are enforcing the rules that the teams agreed to before taking part. Sometimes drivers get frustrated being behind a much slower driver than they are, and this can lead to several incidents of impacts or spins, and we understand that however if a car is going slower, it could be for a variety of reasons, and drivers shouldn’t be ramming other drivers.

We are always reviewing our own processes, including stewarding, in order to improve what we do, but there are times when the teams need to improve on how they report issues to us.

 

The general ethos around stewarding is that, whilst drivers sometimes disagree with the findings, it is crucial to the success of a series that the stewarding is conducted consistently and transparently, but it is also important to remember that there are people behind the names, and it can impact them if they are subject to vitriolic barrages from people. We all want to enjoy our racing, and the rules are there for that purpose, and therefore they need to be enforced. We thank all those involved in making our sim racing happen.

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Chris Buxton
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