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Volume 10 No. 22

Leagues and Governing Bodies

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone made London an offer that "it might not be able to refuse" when he offered to pay a £35M ($54M) staging price for a grand prix in the city, according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. The proposed race "could be the biggest and richest motor race in the world." Marketing experts predict that a London race would generate a minimum of £100M ($155M) from spectators and tourists over a three-day weekend. Sports marketing agency BrandRapport Dir Nigel Currie said, “Maybe it would be two or three times that £100M. It could be a commercial bonanza for Formula One and London" (LONDON TIMES, 6/28). The BBC's Andrew Benson asked, "What's not to like? Who doesn't think it would make one of the most spectacular sporting events the world has ever seen?" That is "clearly what the PR agency, which represents one of McLaren's biggest sponsors, was thinking" when they invited the media to a lavish event at London's RAC Club Thursday. The event included "an expensively produced video" and a "virtual race was staged around the track." Within F1, the idea of a London race in such circumstances has been greeted with "intense scepticism." One senior figure said, "Of course it's not going to happen. You know that, and so do I. But it makes a great story, doesn't it" (BBC, 6/28). The DAILY MAIL's David Kent reported that Ecclestone believes the race would be "even more impressive than the Monaco Grand Prix." The event could become "the richest race in the world" with around 120,000 fans filling the grandstands around the capital's most famous landmarks along the 3.2-mile route with a potential global TV audience of a billion. Ecclestone said, "With the way things are, maybe we would front it and put the money up for it. If we got the O.K. and everything was fine, I think we could do that" (DAILY MAIL, 6/28).

PLENTY OF APPROVAL: In London, Eason reported that Mayor Boris Johnson has "given his qualified support" for the London Grand Prix plans. Johnson said he was "broadly positive" about the idea, provided that air and noise pollution are addressed. Johnson said it was critical to see if there was "a really good economic case" for the race. Johnson: "I am always interested in projects that attract jobs and bring growth" (LONDON TIMES, 6/28). The GUARDIAN's Paul Weaver reported that former British F1 driver Stirling Moss said that he has been "waiting for more than half a century" for a London Grand Prix. Moss said, "I think it would be tremendous for London and for our sport and it would bring an enormous amount of money in. When you get a whole lot coming in where expense doesn't really matter, it's an enormous filler." Modern British drivers think the idea could happen. Driver Lewis Hamilton said, "I was looking over the city and a grand prix here would be the best thing in the world, the biggest event." McLaren teammate Jenson Button said, "Personally, I do like the idea of having a London Grand Prix. Yes, the more grands prix in the U.K. the better" (GUARDIAN, 6/28).

SKEPTICS REMAIN: REUTERS' Alan Baldwin reported that the model of the track, designed by leading architects Populous, "made light of an obvious problem" as it threaded through the monumental Admiralty Arch off Trafalgar Square. That would be "very much an accident waiting to happen," given that ordinary traffic goes through its three narrow arches in single file on the way to the Mall and Buckingham Palace. There is "no way around it" (REUTERS, 6/28). The GUARDIAN's David Batty reported that Populous examined the feasibility of staging a race in London and determined the event "would not cause major disruption," taking five days to set up equipment and three to take down (GUARDIAN, 6/27). The London INDEPENDENT's Jonathan Brown reported that "motor sport insiders insisted it was little more than a pipe dream long-held by Mr. Ecclestone," and observers fear the race course through city streets "could cause a month of disruption, as it does in Monaco"  (INDEPENDENT, 6/28).

Indian business enterprises "showed keen interest" in the inaugural edition of the Sri Lanka Premier League and bought all seven contesting franchises, even despite the Board of Cricket Control in India not allowing its players to participate in the Twenty20 league, according to the PTI. Wadhawan Holdings shelled out the highest bid of $5M for the Wayamba Wolves, while Number One Sports Consulting offered a bid of $5M for the Kandurata Kites. The Uva Unicorns and Ruhuna Rhinos went to Success Sports and Pearl Overseas respectively for $4.6M. The Basnahira Bears were bought by Indian Cricket Dundee at $4.3M, while the Uthura Oryxes at $3.4M went to Rudra Sports. Varun Beverages brought up the rear spending $3.2M for the Nagenahira Nagas. The debut edition of the SLPL is scheduled to begin Aug. 10, with the final to be held on Aug. 31 (PTI, 6/28).

Premier League clubs are "devising a new league" designed to save the national team from the "technical wilderness" that cost them a place in the semifinals of Euro 2012, according to Matt Scott of the London TELEGRAPH. Managers from the 23 "category one" academies met to talk about the "format of a new league that will bring together" the country's top U-21 players in a competitive environment for the first time. The league will be the "highest-profile element" of the Elite Player Performance Plan. As a result of the plan, academies meeting certain criteria will receive Premier League grant funding. Category-one academies have to spend £1.5M ($2.3M) of their own team money on youth development but they will get £775,000 ($1.2M) of "top up grants." Category-two academies will need to spend £1M ($1.5) and they will receive £500,000 ($775,000) in grants. The previously termed "centres of excellence will now be category-three academies." Those will get £210,000 ($325,500) in grants and "only £105,000 ($162,800) from their clubs." The fourth category is for "clubs who concentrate only on the 16-plus age group" (TELEGRAPH, 6/27).

Economic concerns and sports political issues were the reasons behind the Euro 2016 expansion, according to the DPA. UEFA's decision to expand Euro 2016 from 16 to 24 teams will "generate a considerably higher revenue." The tournament's advertising partners, which invest millions, are interested in a "high number of participants and extended live coverage." Critics said that the "quality of play will deteriorate" due to the increased number of teams that cannot compete with elite nations. UEFA President Michel Platini said, "I'm not overly concerned about the quality of play. We can easily have eight more teams, and they are just as good as the rest of the field" (DPA, 6/28). 

Japanese automaker Toyota is considering a return to the World Rally Championship series in '14, according to Gerald Dirnbeck of MOTORSPORT TOTAL. Toyota left the WRC in '99 after winning 43 races, four construction titles and four driver championships to focus on its F1 involvement. Toyota discontinued its F1 involvement in '09 and is repositioning itself in motorsports. Toyota Motorsports President Yoshiaki Kinoshita said, "We hope, we will be ready for a return in '14. Our goal is to put together a WRC program." Toyota's current focus is on its endurance program, which participaties in the World Endurance Championship series. There, the company can test "its hybrid technology." Whether Toyota returns to the WRC or not depends on several factors, including a "solution to the WRC's financial troubles." Kinoshita said, "Nobody knows, what the economic future will look like", but "if our economic situation is exceptional, we could do both [WEC and WRC]" (MOTORSPORT TOTAL, 6/28).

Softball in Malaysia has received a major boost after financial services company ING Insurance Berhad became a sponsor of the national championship. It is the first time the national championship has "secured a major corporate backer," and the deal is said to be worth RM25,000 ($7,800) (, 6/28).

STICK AROUND: In London, Arindam Rej reported Super League bosses "will allow the Bradford Bulls to finish the season as a new company" even if the club goes into liquidation in the coming weeks. This would "avoid a scenario in which results from this year have to be expunged due to the club folding." The club's license would then be reviewed at the end of the season (BBC, 6/27).