Rahal speaks out during day two of SportBusiness conference

SportBusiness 2001 Special Report: Rahal Warns To Take F1 Breakaway Threats Seriously Leading car makers are serious in their threats to set up their own breakaway Formula One series, according to Jaguar team boss Bobby Rahal. The...

SportBusiness 2001 Special Report:
Rahal Warns To Take F1 Breakaway Threats Seriously

Leading car makers are serious in their threats to set up their own breakaway Formula One series, according to Jaguar team boss Bobby Rahal.

The manufacturers, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Fiat, Ford and Renault, have threatened to form a rival competition because they are unhappy that the sport is being controlled by two German media companies; Kirch and EM.TV. The manufacturers are concerned the Germans would opt for pay-per-view coverage in future rather than open broadcasts, a move that would decrease exposure to mass audiences.

Speaking on the second day of the SportBusiness 2001 conference in central London, Rahal said: "This is not an idle threat. I think they will go forward if they aren't considered and included in the future make-up of the sport.

"No one wants it to get to that stage, but they want to protect their interests for the future.

"I do believe the manufacturers need to have a participatory role. I do think there will have to be a lot more inclusiveness about it in the future."

He added: "I don't think they are going to be satisfied going forward having the same role as they do now which seems to be that they're one of the, quote, unquote, sponsors.

"They are going to want to be very much part of the decision-making process in the future.

"It's costing the manufacturers way too much money to not have a much greater participation in the revenues.

"They are going to have to get a return on that investment. And I don't think that return on investment can just be on image. It's got to be hard return, hard financial return.

"Terrestrial is absolutely a must for the manufacturers and the sport. You have to transmit your sport to the widest possible audience and they want the broadest possible audience out there."

EM.TV and Kirch jointly control 75 percent of Formula One, while the remainder is owned by British racing entrepreneur Bernie Ecclestone. The Formula One's governing body, FIA, meanwhile, has said it could sanction the new race series.

Tobacco Loss Will Hit Motor Sport - Rahal

The loss of tobacco companies as sponsors of Formula One will have a major financial effect on motor sport as a whole, Jaguar team boss Bobby Rahal has warned.

Speaking on the second day of the SportBusiness 2001 conference in central London, Rahal said sponsorship money from the tobacco industry had helped create the success that Formula One was today.

He said losing the tobacco sponsors would have a "major negative effect on opportunities for outside revenues".

"The reality...is that the difference in dollars that are invested in the sport from a sponsor like Miller compared to a Marlboro...is extraordinary.

"And when tobacco companies go away, it will have a major negative effect on opportunities for outside revenues. The teams are dependent on that.

"I don't believe we are going to see the same level of money from new sponsors, see them match what the tobacco industry can offer.

"I really think that will have a major, major effect on Formula One certainly, but also motor sport as a whole.

"There is no doubt that everybody will continue to race. What's driven the rise in costs of Formula One in the last ten or 15 years has been the entry of all the tobacco companies.

"When they all go away, racing will still exist, but definitely at a different level."

Rahal said Formula One chiefs needed to explore ways of expanding the sport in the United States.

"Formula One is a very small blip on the screen in the United States and while I don't think it will ever truly grow there as long as there isn't an American driver competing, it is still an untapped market - the biggest single market in the world.

"But that's the next challenge - how do they take Formula One and make it bigger in the United States?"

-SP-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Bernie Ecclestone