F1 could have 20 races again next season after the governing body FIA "penciled in a mystery European round in July to fill a space left by the postponed Grand Prix of America in New Jersey," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. FIA said on Wednesday that the German Grand Prix would move up a week to July 7, with July 21 now "reserved for another F1 European event" subject to approval of national bodies. While no further details were given, "speculation focused mainly on the possible return of the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul." F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "dropped a hint" on Tuesday when he told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport he was going to Istanbul "to try and revive the Turkish Grand Prix and take part in the world council." Another option could be Austria, whose former Österreichring (also known as the A1 Ring) "has now been revamped by owners Red Bull since it last hosted a grand prix in '03 and is an easy drive from Budapest." Helmut Marko, a close aid to Red Bull's billionaire Owner Dietrich Mateschitz, was quoted in Austria this week as saying a grand prix in the country could not be ruled out: "With Mateschitz, you can never say never. Let's see how it develops." FIA "also made amendments to the technical and sporting regulations for next season." It "included more stringent front wing deflection tests, after a number of controversies in that area this year, and an increase in the minimum weight of cars to compensate for heavier Pirelli tyres" (REUTERS, 12/5).
GEOGRAPHY LESSON: The BBC's Andrew Benson wrote the Turkish Grand Prix track "is not in Europe -- it is on the Asian side of the Bosphorus." But it is often referred to as a "European" race. An FIA statement from the World Motorsport Council, which is meeting in the Turkish city this week, said the new race was "subject to approval by the relevant" national sporting authorities. In addition, "there have been efforts in recent months to revive the French Grand Prix, which was last held in '08, but it is thought that an agreement on that event is still some way off" (BBC, 12/5). In London, Kevin Eason wrote "there will be little joy in F1 to discover that Turkey could be back on the schedule." The track is regarded as one of the finest, but "spectators shunned the event that was conducted in near-anonymity before being abandoned two years ago." The extra race on the schedule is important because Ecclestone needs to "make a full complement of 20 grands prix promised to broadcasters" (LONDON TIMES, 12/6).
The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) is working on a project to ensure that the World Cup stadiums being built in Cuiabá, Manaus and Brasilia do not turn into "white elephants" after the tournament, according to Rodrigo Vessoni of LANCE NET. The CBF does not want "so much tax payer money to go to waste," and is looking into making all Brasileiro clubs give up two home games and play them in the three stadiums mentioned. The three cities do not have local top-flight football clubs, and the CBF believes that making top clubs play a couple games a year in these stadiums would help generate revenue. The initial plan is for this to be implemented for next season, "something that will depend on the construction of these arenas." The CBF is also looking to have the three stadiums host Copa do Brasil U20 games. The CBF will cover "the expenditures related to flights and hotels" as well as guarantee that the would be home club receives at least the average revenue it generated per home match last season (LANCE NET, 12/4).
The proposed Indian Badminton League -- "modeled on cricket's cash-rich, franchise-based Indian Premier League" -- has received 18 expressions of interest from corporates for its franchises, according to Ullekh NP of the ECONOMIC TIMES. Organizers said that they "expect 12-14 more initial bids over the next 15 days." IBL's commercial partner Sporty Solutionz CEO Ashish Chadha said that "eight cities are in the fray, and the organisers will finally settle on six franchises that get the best bids." The league will be held from June 24-July 11. Chadha said, "The base price (for each franchise) is 20 crore ($3.7M). An equal amount would be spent on marketing and maintenance cost with incremental proportion. We are expecting Hyderabad to go for at least 50 crore ($9.2M). This is just the licensing fee. But the amount will go up if you add franchise maintenance and marketing costs." Chadha "would not reveal the names of the companies" that have made bids. So far, the Hyderabad franchise "has attracted the maximum number of bids," followed by Bangalore and Mumbai. Chadha: "It is much more than we had expected." The cities in the bid race are: Delhi, Bombay, Lucknow, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune and Nagpur. Organizers claim that the IBL, "with $1M in prize money, would be the richest prize-money league in badminton." Sporty Solutionz has bought the rights to organize the league for seven years (ECONOMIC TIMES, 12/5).
Welsh rugby will try to "stem the flow of players out of the country and improve the performances of its regions in the Heineken Cup by setting up a body tasked with taking the professional game in the principality to the top of European rugby within five years," according to Paul Rees of the London GUARDIAN. A new Professional Regional Game Board will be "made up of four representatives from the Welsh Rugby Union and one each from the four regions, with an independent chairman." The move comes after a report into the finances of Welsh rugby suggested that "the level immediately below the national team was living beyond its means." Welsh Rugby Union CEO Roger Lewis said, "The report confirmed to all of us in uncompromising detail that we have to act very differently, so we have worked hard in a spirit of unity to forge a structure that can provide workable and meaningful solutions" (GUARDIAN, 12/4). REUTERS' Tom Bartlett reported that among issues to be addressed include the "continuation of a top-level player exodus." A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers into the sport painted a "dark picture" with the current system of four regional teams deemed "financially unsustainable." Poor management of those teams and "the country's history of political infighting is said to be hindering progress" (REUTERS, 12/5).
The Football Federation Australia and Professional Footballers Australia "could be on a collision course" over an FFA request for the players' collective bargaining agreement not to apply to national football team Socceroos for the East Asian Cup qualifiers being played in Hong Kong, according to Ray Gatt of THE AUSTRALIAN. Several weeks ago, the FFA approached the PFA after suggestions that prize money for the tournament had been downgraded from A$1.5M ($1.6M) to A$200,000. A PFA spokesperson said, "Yes, the FFA approached us some time ago and put in a request for the CBA not to apply for this tournament. We are considering it, but any decision will be left to the broader players, the players' executive and the Socceroos committee." The Socceroos are "understood to be angry but are unlikely to make any decision on FFA's request until they return to Australia following the qualifiers" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 12/6). In Adelaide, Val Migliaccio reported the "unexpected budget cut" could make the decision to enter the Socceroos into the East Asian Cup qualifiers for the first time "a double blow given the tournament has also robbed the A-League of its best Australian players for two rounds." The tournament, which is hosted by the East Asian Football Federation and is sanctioned by the Asian Football Confederation, "does not comply with FIFA's release of players for int'l duty" (THE ADVERTISER, 12/6).
The Elite Football League of India, a “new and curious venture aimed at introducing American football to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and other countries in Asia,” is a “perhaps quixotic undertaking, but it could prove to be lucrative should the game achieve some measure of popularity within the vast population of potential fans,” according to Bajaj & Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. EFLI co-Founder & co-CEO Richard Whelan said, “When you first watch the games, it’s laughable. ... It’s an absolute joke compared to the NFL. But it’s not a joke compared to anything else on Indian sports television, and that’s all we’re going up against.” Bajaj & Belson wrote under Whelan’s “frenzied leadership, the league has raised $8.5M from investors," including former NFLers Kurt Warner and Brandon Chillar, and he is "confident others investors will come on board.” To keep costs “to a minimum, the league stopped paying its players in the off-season and, in the first season, dispensed with stadiums, tickets, tailgating and other trappings of the American football experience.” Hour-long tapes of each game “were shown on television over a three-month period.” The EFLI will “ditch that strategy in its second season, when games in several Indian cities will be televised live.” Despite the “low level of play, the league’s founders claim that millions of people are interested in American sports and will watch if Indians and Pakistanis are competing.” EFLI broadcast partner Ten Sports CEO Atul Pande said viewership had been “negligible” and he “would be surprised if even 10,000 homes are watching.” Longtime NFL media exec Sandy Grossman, who works alongside former top Fox Sports exec Ed Goren in managing the league's broadcasts, said that the league “planned to add more pageantry to its broadcasts and was talking with execs in Bollywood” (N.Y. TIMES, 12/5).
The National Rugby League Club Council Wednesday dismissed reports it is lobbying against the Australian Rugby League Commission and said that it is "fully behind Chair John Grant and incoming CEO Dave Smith," who starts on Feb. 1, according to the AAP. The council will meet Grant and interim CEO Shane Mattiske on Monday, and Wests Tigers Chair Dave Trodden said that "clubs were at odds with the commission were wide of the mark." Todden said, "Far from being dissatisfied with the commission or John Grant, the Club Council is supportive of what they are trying to achieve and the fact they are changing the way business is conducted in rugby league" (AAP, 12/6). In Sydney, Phil Gould opined the support from the 16 NRL clubs for Grant and his fellow commissioners "is complete and unwavering." It's clear to see those in charge "setting up a solid foundation for the future of our great game." Gould continued: "This is not to say we won't disagree from time to time. Having people with differing opinions is a good thing. However, I'm sure I speak for all NRL club officials in saying we have complete confidence in knowing these commissioners will always base their decisions on what they believe to be in the best long-term interests of the game. That is all we can ask." Recent attempts to try to divide the clubs and the ARLC "are mischievous and a waste of time." Suggestions that a Christmas lunch for club chairmen and CEOs set down for Monday "was an emergency meeting to discuss a vote of no confidence in the commission are scurrilous" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 12/6).