British MTB guide prosecuted for working in France

Alistair Jamieson facing fine and prison time as UK qualifications ignored in France

Mountain biking guide Alistair Jamieson, from Essex, could face a €15,000 fine and a year in prison over a ruling banning him from work.

Jamieson, whose Trail Addiction business runs MTB holidays in the French Alps, has a British diploma in mountain biking instruction and 13 years of teaching experience in the sport, but local prosecutors in Savoie have declared his credentials as void, because they were not gained in France.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Jamieson said: “I have quite clearly been forbidden from working, but I am continuing to do so because I believe that the French authorities do not have the right to do this. They should recognise my diploma. I have clients who have booked holidays and I think I am being pursued because I am the most successful mountain biking business in the region.”

The case is similar to that of ski instructor Simon Butler, who was fined €30,000 in June after his British qualifications (earned in 1985) and 30 years of teaching experience in France were discounted due to him not holding the Eurotest, which came into existence in 2004.

Jamieson, who employs 15 guides, says his lawyers have informed him that he has the right to continue working under EU law.

The case highlights widespread problems faced by mountain bike guides attempting to work in France with applications for equivalence – the right to work in France – regularly turned down for no straightforward reason by the French Ministry of Sport.

However, another British mountain bike guide based in the Alps, Sam Morris of Bike Village, has been co-operating with French authorities to help lay the foundations for a real and lasting solution for British guides and their clients.

Morris said: “I've been a full-time qualified guide since 1998 and am well on my way to becoming a guide trainer myself so I should have represented a straightforward 'yes' case. Instead the Ministry of Sport found endless comedy reasons to knock me back, eventually offering me 20 per cent equivalence, which meant I still had to do 80 per cent of the 1,100-hour French course.

“I appealed citing European law, but in the end the truth is that unless you have the money to get through a local, regional, then national French court, you can forget about a European one.

“I have endless respect for Alistair's bold stance, but with my children growing up here, it was essential to me to be fully integrated and accepted into the French system.”

Things became more positive after Morris signed up for the French course, however.

“Luckily, once you get through to the mountain biking fraternity, they are really nice guys who are keen to help. My head of training upped my equivalence to 60 per cent.

“I'll soon be the first Brit to qualify under the new French BPJEPS regime and this has allowed me to get to know everyone on the French side of things. I met with the head of the MCF [Moniteur Cycliste Française – the main French bike school], who agreed a solution was needed.

“I then spoke to [Recreation Education Manager] Neil Atkinson at British Cycling, who has been an amazing help, and eventually the French contacted the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) to ask them to host a symposium on the matter this September.

“[The French] know there’s a problem and, once prodded, were very proactive in asking the IMBA to host a European meeting with the aim of creating a European platform, hopefully to be in place for summer 2015. So there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

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