Asia finds gold in sports tourism


(eTN) Asian audiences are luring the F1 Grand Prix “circuit and circus” with current host Melbourne given notice it may hold its last race in 2010, according to latest news reports from Australia.

Ahead of the season’s opening race to be held on the streets of Melbourne, Australia, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said, “There are better prospects of chasing more money, sponsorship and television audiences if the event is held in India, South Korea, even Russia.”

Asia’s hold in the richest sports tourism franchise started in Japan, followed by Malaysia and China. It will soon be followed by Singapore holding the first night F1 race around the streets of Singapore in September this year.

“Maybe we don’t want to be in Australia,” continued Ecclestone. “Our costs are very high, and we get a lot less money. It’s bloody bad for us.”

The Australian race has been dogged by continuing losses. Last year, it reported a loss of US$31 million, which is expected to rise to US$36 million this year. Since the event was moved to Melbourne from Adelaide, another Australian city, it has lost more than US$108 million.

The Victoria state government, under Premier John Brumby, has added further fuel to the argument by openly withdrawing its support, raising doubts about the event’s viability and its future.

Dismissing the threat against Australia continuing to hold the race, Ron Walker, Australian Grand Prix chairman said, “The Asian venues don’t get anything like the attendance we get in Melbourne. This threat will blow mover and negotiations will take place in a normal fashion.”

Walker further said the losses must be balanced against the sport’s economic benefits. “I speak to the teams regularly, and they love coming to Melbourne, everybody loves coming to Melbourne.”

Ecclestone said, Melbourne still has a chance to “keep the race” if it agrees to hold a night race like Singapore so it can catch its European TV audiences, and willingness to renew the license fee of more than $36 million. “The terms are non-negotiable. We would have to have a night race. That would be the only option. My mind would be made up by money.”