Scott Hollingsworth answers questions about AMA Supercross. PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The following is an interview with Scott Hollingsworth, CEO of AMA Pro Racing, concerning the upcoming 2003 AMA Supercross Series. This interview was conducted for...
Scott Hollingsworth answers questions about AMA Supercross.
PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The following is an interview with Scott Hollingsworth, CEO of AMA Pro Racing, concerning the upcoming 2003 AMA Supercross Series. This interview was conducted for the February issue of American Motorcyclist magazine, the official publication of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). Due to the timely nature of the subject matter, it is being released now, prior to its publication.
American Motorcyclist: On November 26, the news broke that AMA Pro Racing had filed a lawsuit against Clear Channel Entertainment over the operation of the AMA Supercross Series. What exactly is the nature of that lawsuit?
Scott Hollingsworth: The complaint that we've filed asks the court to order Clear Channel to live up to the terms of the Supercross Sanctioning Agreement we signed with them in March. That contract specifically states that AMA Pro Racing will be the sole sanctioning body for all events in the AMA Supercross Series. In recent weeks, it's become obvious that Clear Channel has also sanctioned these races through the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) and is now billing the AMA Supercross Series, with the addition of a couple of smaller races in Europe, as the Supercross World Championship.
We have asked the court for a preliminary injunction against Clear Channel primarily to prevent it from having FIM sanctions, FIM rules and FIM officials involved with the races that are part of the AMA Supercross Series.
AM: What difference does it make whose name is on the races?
Hollingsworth: It makes a big difference, for several reasons. First, the AMA and AMA Pro Racing have spent 28 years building this series into the premier Supercross championship in the world, just as our motocross and Superbike series have risen to premier status worldwide. To have the FIM take over a series that we've invested so much money, time and effort in simply isn't fair. The FIM and its various contract partners that have come and gone have tried repeatedly over the years to establish their own World Supercross Championship, and have failed to produce a series worthy of that name. But that doesn't mean the FIM should be allowed to take our series.
Another big problem is what this could mean for American riders, teams and fans. Currently, our fans know they're going to see the best Supercross competition on earth, week after week, in stadiums across the United States. That's the series we've built. If the FIM is going to try to turn that into a world championship, it's likely to mean fewer chances for American fans to see the stars of the sport, along with enormous logistical problems for American teams and riders. We have always been supportive of the international development of motocross and supercross, but in a cooperative fashion, not a predatory one.
Frankly, we have concerns about the competence of the FIM to manage a world-level supercross series. The FIM has established a contract with Dorna Offroad to handle its motocross and supercross events, but as I've mentioned, that combination has failed completely to create a competitive supercross series. And its grand prix motocross championship has never been in a weaker state.
American fans are familiar with the disaster surrounding the 2002 Motocross of Nations, which was planned and put together entirely by Dorna, the FIM's contract partner, without asking for or accepting any involvement by the AMA or AMA Pro Racing. At the last minute, that event fell apart when it became clear that the FIM, Dorna and their promoting partner could not produce that one event.
But the bottom line here is that the FIM is free to create a Supercross world championship. They just can't take ours.
AM: Wasn't FIM involvement a part of this package since the beginning, when Clear Channel announced the Supercross schedule last winter?
Hollingsworth: What's changed is the nature of the FIM's involvement. The contracts we've signed allow the FIM to count the points from the 15 rounds of the AMA Supercross Series promoted by Clear Channel--which means all of the AMA Supercross Series except the Daytona race--toward a world championship. It specifically states that AMA Pro Racing will be the sole sanctioning authority for the AMA Supercross Series. As such, Clear Channel is prohibited from inviting the FIM to impose its rules and to have its officials in charge of our races.
We discussed these issues specifically during negotiations regarding the 2003 season, and we agreed that in the interests of furthering the international appeal of the sport, we would work toward adopting an unleaded-fuel requirement like the one used by the FIM. That would make it easier for riders and teams from all countries to participate. We never agreed to allow our events to be run by FIM rules, or for the FIM to take over those races as its own.
AM: This agreement has been in effect for a number of months. Why is the suit being filed now?
Hollingsworth: Because it has become increasingly obvious that the AMA Supercross Series is in jeopardy of being dismantled. When we reached the agreement in March, we were certain that when the 2003 season kicked off, we'd be presenting the quality of Supercross racing fans have come to expect. In early April, representatives of AMA Pro Racing and Clear Channel met to discuss ways of accommodating international involvement in the series, and we agreed to work on an unleaded fuel requirement for our races.
Then in July, we were notified by Wolfgang Srb, president of the FIM's Motocross Commission, that FIM rules would apply to all 17 races of the FIM World Supercross Championship, including the 15 Clear Channel-promoted rounds of the AMA Supercross Series. In addition, Srb said the FIM was appointing a person affiliated with Clear Channel as race director to run the races in place of the AMA Pro Racing staff that has effectively carried out those responsibilities since the series began in 1974.
We weren't sure what to make of that, since AMA Pro Racing doesn't have a contract with the FIM regarding the AMA Supercross Series. The AMA, our parent organization, is a member organization of the FIM, but their relationship does not involve AMA Supercross, or any other series operated by AMA Pro Racing. Our contract is with Clear Channel, and it is very specific on these issues. So we notified Srb and the FIM that we would be adhering to our contract by sanctioning the events and officiating at them.
It wasn't until Clear Channel began advertising the series this fall that we realized the extent to which the FIM was seeking to take over our series. The first round of advertising correctly identified it as the AMA Supercross Series, but in subsequent ads it was identified as the "FIM World Supercross GP," then "World Supercross," and finally as the "THQ World Supercross GP." In the meantime, Clear Channel told us that it intended to install its employee as the race director, and to enforce FIM rules at AMA Supercross Series races. We notified Clear Channel that this was a violation of our contract, and their attorneys told us they disagreed.
Our contract with Clear Channel calls for arbitration of any disagreements, but it was apparent that the arbitration procedure could not be completed before the AMA Supercross Series got under way January 4. Therefore, we have gone to court to compel Clear Channel to abide by the contract it signed.
AM: You have mentioned that the AMA is the parent organization of AMA Pro Racing, and that it's AMA Pro Racing that actually enters into contracts regarding the AMA Supercross Series. What exactly is the relationship between these organizations?
Hollingsworth: I know this can be confusing, because for years, the AMA's professional racing series were run by a department of the AMA. Nearly a decade ago, the AMA realized that if it was to compete in an increasingly professional motorsports climate, it would have to create a separate organization that would actually run the races, negotiate contracts, line up sponsorships and so forth. The organization that was created is officially Paradama Productions Inc., but our trade name is AMA Pro Racing.
Basically, the AMA remains a non-profit membership organization whose purpose is to pursue, promote and protect the interests of motorcyclists while serving the needs of its members. AMA Pro Racing, formed in 1995, is a subsidiary of the AMA, created to respond to the rising popularity and tremendous growth of professional motorcycle racing in America. This separate company, with its own management and Board of Directors, allows the AMA to focus on government relations, membership growth, amateur motorcycle sport and other matters.
The AMA is the U.S. member organization of the FIM, which is made up of national motorcycling federations in 85 countries. And recently, the FIM's president sent the AMA a letter saying that it could be expelled from the FIM unless it agreed to accept FIM sanction and race direction at AMA Supercross Series races. However, neither the AMA nor the FIM is a party to the contract in question here. That contract is between AMA Pro Racing and Clear Channel.
AM: The first round of the 2003 AMA Supercross Series is just a little over a month away. What effect will this legal dispute have on that race?
Hollingsworth: We fully expect that on January 4, our 30th season of AMA Supercross competition will kick off at Edison International Field in Anaheim, California. We have not asked the court to do anything that would put that race, or any of the 15 rounds of the AMA Supercross Series that follow it, in jeopardy. We have asked only that the court require our contract partner--Clear Channel Entertainment--to live up to the agreement it signed.
NOTE: After January 5, 2003, this material will become Copyright 2003, American Motorcyclist Association/American Motorcyclist.
About AMA Pro Racing
AMA Pro Racing is the leading sanctioning body for motorcycle sport in the United States. Its properties include the AMA Supercross Championship, the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Motocross Championship, the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship and the AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship. Nearly 2 million race fans attended AMA Pro Racing events during the 2002 season. For more information about AMA Pro Racing, visit www.amaproracing.com.