Promoters protest against F1 owners

Liberty Media under fire for 'disjointed ideas' and restricting free live television broadcasts

LONDON • A majority of Formula One's grand prix promoters issued a statement on Monday expressing concern about how the sport is being run by owners Liberty Media.

The Formula One Promoters' Association (Fopa), which represents 16 grands prix including Singapore, had met in London to discuss the situation ahead of the 21-race season starting in Australia in March.

"It is not in the long-term interest of the sport that fans lose free access to content and broadcasting," it said in a three-point statement.

"There is a lack of clarity on new initiatives in F1 and a lack of engagement with promoters on their implementation.

"New races should not be introduced to the detriment of existing events although the association is encouraged by the alternative business models being offered to prospective venues."

Fopa said members wanted "a more collaborative approach" as well as "the opportunity to offer their experience and expertise in a spirit of partnership with F1 and the (governing body) FIA".

The chairman of Fopa is Stuart Pringle, managing director of Britain's Silverstone circuit that hosted the first championship GP in 1950. It is one of five circuits out of contract after this season, the others being Germany's Hockenheim, Italy's historic Monza track, Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya and Mexico City.

Only one race, the British GP, will be broadcast live and free-to-air in Britain this year with the rest on Sky Sports pay TV.

While there are no new races this year, Vietnam is lined up for a race in Hanoi from 2020 while a possible Miami GP remains on the cards after Austin (Texas).

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

There is a lack of clarity on new initiatives in F1 and a lack of engagement with promoters on their implementation.

FOPA STATEMENT, expressing concern about how Formula One is being run by owners Liberty Media.

FUTURE IN JEOPARDY

Everyone is disgruntled. Liberty's ideas are disjointed. We have all been compliant, but we have great concerns about the future health of the sport under the people who run it now.

STUART PRINGLE, chairman of Fopa, voicing his disapproval against Liberty Media.

The Daily Mail suggested Liberty, which took over from CVC in 2017 when it also ousted previous commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, faced a promoter rebellion.

"Everyone is disgruntled. Liberty's ideas are disjointed," Pringle was quoted as saying.

"We have all been compliant, but we have great concerns about the future health of the sport under the people who run it now."

He added that the deal being offered to Miami, which has yet to be signed off by the local authorities, was of particular concern.

"Miami is seemingly getting a free deal," he said. "That has not gone down well with anyone, not least with the guys at Austin, Texas, who are working hard to make their race pay."

F1 recently trumpeted a rise in worldwide audience figures across TV and digital platforms last year.

Sean Bratches, F1's managing director for motor sports, said in November last year that the sport wanted to keep its "heritage races" but it also had to operate like a business. "Nothing is immutable in this sport," he said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2019, with the headline 'Promoters protest against F1 owners'. Print Edition | Subscribe