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).
The U.K. government has confirmed that the planned merger of elite funding body UK Sport and grassroots organization Sport England, responsible for investing £375M ($594M) a year of public money between them, "has been scrapped," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said the plan to merge the two bodies, announced in '10 "as part of the prime minister's mooted 'bonfire of the quangos,' had been dropped as he announced plans to advertise" for new chairmen for both organizations. Robertson confirmed that the two bodies "would be asked to look for back-office savings and reduce administrative costs." They are "likely to move to the same offices" in '14 when the existing leases run out on their central London offices. Robertson also wants to see them cooperate more "in enabling sports that receive grassroots funding but have been axed from UK Sport's list of funded sports to become more competitive" (GUARDIAN, 1/23).
OUT THE DOOR: The London TELEGRAPH reported UK Sport Chair Sue Campbell and Sport England Chair Richard Lewis "are both stepping down from their posts before the spring." Lewis, "who has cited time constraints due to his other role" as tennis' All England Club CEO, "welcomed the news that the merger was off." Lewis said, "While it was right to explore the most effective and efficient ways of bringing our two organizations closer together, the decision not to merge Sport England and UK Sport is welcome news" (TELEGRAPH, 1/23).
Pakistan on Wednesday "tried to brush aside security worries over its first major Twenty20 league but admitted a warning from the international players association not to take part may have an impact," according to the AFP. Pakistan Super League adviser Haroon Lorgat insisted that the dire warnings from Federation of Int'l Cricketers Associations CEO Tim May "were not an attack on the league itself" and said that "the competition had had a positive response from players and sponsors." Lorgat said, "While we understand that sort of a statement from the players' association, but I don't think we necessarily agree with it -- the reality is different and the league will happen" (AFP, 1/23). REUTERS reported Pakistan Cricket Board Chair Zaka Ashraf said that Pakistan will offer visiting players insurance worth $2M each in "a bid to overcome security fears and revive international cricket in the country." Ashraf said, "We are taking all steps to revive international cricket here, and everyone should feel proud about the efforts we have made in this regard. [People] are afraid that they would be subjected to a shoot-out as soon as they come out of the airport. There is lot of effort required to change this perception because things are definitely not so bad here" (REUTERS, 1/23).
SEEKING RELEASE: The PTI reported in an effort to rope in as many int'l players as possible for PSL, the PCB had approached the Board of Control for Cricket in India "to release Indian players for the T20 tournament." Asked if Indian players would take part in the league, PCB COO Subhan Ahmed said that the PCB "was not only directly in touch with players from all countries but also their Boards." Additionally, the PCB "had not ruled out having the league outside the country if conditions in Pakistan in March-April did not allow the event to be held on time." The board "is yet to decide on the venue of the league" (PTI, 1/23).