F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone will fly into Melbourne this week facing calls to cut his £23M ($34.2M) race fee "to save the future of the Australian Grand Prix," according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. Ecclestone will meet Victoria state Government new premier Denis Napthine, who finances "one of the most popular races on the calendar." Napthine is "up against a taxpayer revolt" after it was revealed that Ecclestone is charging a £23M fee for the rights to hold the race, which meant that the Australian government had to pick up a bill for £39M ($58.1M) "including the costs of setting up the Albert Park circuit in the city." The '15 race will be the last in Melbourne unless Napthine "can win a deal that will head off the criticism from protest groups" that have provided a backdrop to recent grand prix (LONDON TIMES, 3/11).
Events and Attractions
Major League Baseball is "beginning to explore an event that Commissioner Bud Selig calls 'a real World Series' that would pit the MLB champion against Japan's champion in a best-of-seven-game event on two continents," according to Phil Rogers of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. A Japan-U.S. World Series "looks like a financial windfall for MLB." It could "bring about some fundamental change to the sport -- possibly even a return to a 154-game regular season -- and serve as a home run for whoever replaces Selig as commissioner." It could "even shape who is the next commissioner, strengthening the hand" of MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan, who has overseen MLB's int'l growth. The World Baseball Classic is "practically a national holiday in Japan." The MLBPA on Friday "issued a press release that showed the Japan-Brazil game on March 2 drew a 35 share on Japanese television, meaning more than one of every three viewers was watching." That "topped all broadcasts of the 2012 London Olympics, and Japan is an Olympics-loving country." Selig said, "Someday you will get the United States versus Japan, a real World Series. It's a long way off, but yes, I really believe it. That's the final goal" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/10). Selig said, "The thought of having a real World Series, and the interest in the world, is breathtaking to me." He said that the "notion of starting a regular season in Europe no longer seemed far-fetched." In N.Y., Tyler Kepner noted Selig had "only a vague vision of the so-called real World Series and said he probably would not live to see it." But he said that the WBC is "the essential vehicle for wherever the game is going." Selig "stopped short of pushing for mandatory participation," but something "seems imperfect when so many American stars decline to participate" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/10).
British Horseracing Authority CEO Paul Bittar has spoken out against the more hostile pro-animal groups who said that this week’s Cheltenham Festival "will inflict cruelty on its 500 equine participants," according to Paul Hayward of the London TELEGRAPH. Bittar said, "Nowhere in the world does care for the horse and the depth of interest in the horse exist as it does in England." Most of the 220,000 racegoers who will attend four days of action in the Cotswolds are fans, but Cheltenham is "increasingly a forum for animal rights protesters." Bittar: "We’re keen to take a more positive approach to how we deal with the issues and not shy away or perhaps concede as much ground as people feel we may have conceded." Bittar, who has been in the job 12 months, insists that changes to race conditions, course modifications and initiatives such as the new warm-down area at Aintree "show a sport attuned to public sensitivities." Bittar: "I think we have to get the message across that this is a sport that’s not without risk" (TELEGRAPH, 3/10).
The Philippines will be hosting the '13 edition of the Asian Wushu Championships from Aug. 8 to 12 at the Makati Coliseum (MANILA TIMES, 3/11). ... Malaysia has withdrawn from an Asian boxing tournament in the Philippines due to the incursion of armed Filipinos in Sabah (AFP, 3/11). ... The Philippines said Monday it will send its best athletes to the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar "despite alleged cherry-picking of sports to give the host country the most medals" (AFP, 3/11).