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SBD Global/January 24, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Australian Taxpayers Pay Millions To Host Melbourne F1 Grand Prix

New documents show Aussie taxpayers are footing the bill for Melbourne's F1 race.
Victorians are paying more than A$30M ($31.7M) a year for the right to host the Australian F1 Grand Prix "under a top-secret deal" with F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone, according to Hudson & Johnston of the HERALD SUN. Grand prix documents show the overall cost of Ecclestone's licence fee -- "kept secret by four successive state governments for almost two decades" -- for the five-year contract is close to A$170M. The documents "detail only the current contract." Using the figures as a basis for estimates, the overall sum "sucked from state coffers for the 15 races up until 2010 could total hundreds of millions of dollars." Tourism and Major Events Minister Louise Asher said the grand prix was a "terrific" event for Melbourne, but did cost taxpayers too much at the moment. The current GP contract was negotiated by the Labor party, but "Asher conceded it was difficult to negotiate on licensing fees" because Ecclestone "could move the race to another city willing to pay more." Asher said, "My responsibility as Minister ... will be to evaluate what is most benefit to taxpayers as we sit down to negotiate" (HERALD SUN, 1/23).

FUTURE IN LIMBO: In Sydney, Ferguson & Atkins reported "revelations of a licence fee deal worth" A$30M-plus a year with Ecclestone "have endangered" the Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix's chances of remaining in Victoria. Local government and race officials warned Wednesday that "leaking of details of the confidential fee would make it harder to negotiate a new agreement." Australian Grand Prix Corp. CEO Andrew Westacott said Victorians "won't know what we've lost until it's gone" while the government indicated the state's hold on the race was slipping (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/24). Also in Sydney, Mark Fogarty reported Victoria's annual fee to stage the race "is in the middle range" of what F1 races cost governments and promoters around the world. The fees range from nothing for the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix to as much as A$80M annually for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The cost of race fees "is never officially acknowledged because all F1 race contracts" with the Ecclestone-run Formula One Management "have strict confidentiality clauses" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 1/24).
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