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Volume 10 No. 25

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The dream of F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone to have an F1 Grand Prix in close proximity to New York City is still being targeted for mid '14, while a newly built circuit near Austin, Texas could secure F1’s long-term future in the U.S. In addition to its increased American presence, Ecclestone has been talking with officials south of the border about restarting the Mexican Grand Prix in '14. And the Canadian GP at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is a fixture on the schedule.So, F1 is gaining traction in North American, but its history in the U.S., which stretches back to 1950, is one of unrequited love. The circuit is hoping that its move to the NYC marketplace -- or at least N.Y. adjacent in New Jersey -- will finally see that courtship consummated. New Jersey/New York F1 Race Promoter Leo Hindery Jr. told SBD Global, “The U.S. needs a premium Grand Prix. This dream was much more Bernie Ecclestone’s than anybody’s. Bernie has expressed an interest in being in the New York area for a very, very long time, but one of the things we’ve learned in recent years is when you get too near a major metropolitan area the quality of the racing sometimes doesn’t meet the expectation of the teams and the drivers.”

Organizers spent a long time searching for the right place for the race and ultimately settled on the New Jersey location along the Hudson River opposite Midtown Manhattan. Hindery said, "The key criteria for the drivers is can they pass, is there elevation change where the engineers get rewarded, and is it a challenging race, in other words a number of turns. It’s not the straights that are interesting, it’s the turns." The course chosen for the American Grand Prix delivers, Hindery said. "It’s a road course. It will be used once a year. It is 3.2 miles. It has a tremendous amount of elevation change and 19 turns." Hindery discounted talk that the race would be a threat to Montreal as fans, especially international ones, would have to pick one over the other. Hindery said he and counterpart Canadian Grand Prix President François Dumontier believe overseas fans "will do both." Hindery said, "You could go to Montreal, which is just an amazing, fun, tourist city, but it’s a different city, by a lot, than New York. And then you come down to New York for the following Sunday." Hindery claims he's complied with state requests for clearances and has lined up sponsors, issues that derailed the race last year.

CELEBRATED COMEBACK: The groundwork for F1’s U.S. Renaissance was laid in November when Austin’s Circuit of America’s hosted its first Grand Prix, an event the famously understated Ecclestone labeled "fantastic." COTA President Steve Sexton agreed with Ecclestone’s assessment. Sexton told SBD Global: "We had a very successful first event and look to build on that performance. Our F1 race was the second-highest attended of the ’12 season (117,426) and the three-day attendance of 265,499 was the third highest for any host city last year." On first blush, Austin seemed an odd choice for F1 to pin its expansionistic hopes. It had no motorsports history, no major professional sports franchises and is barely a top 50 media market. But it does have a cachet as one of the hippest entertainment centers in the country. Sexton said, "I can’t speak to Mr. Ecclestone and his group’s deciding factor on why Austin, other than it’s a hot, popular market now in the U.S. for people in terms of entertainment. Not only is it the live music capital of the world, but it is getting very well known in the domestic and international community as a technology leader. There are 20 million people within three hours of Austin. F1 is known really for technology and glamor, and Austin fits that characteristic.”

IN FOR THE LONG HAUL: Whatever the draw, COTA has a 10-year contract with Formula One Management and aims to increase its ’12 attendance number over the years. Sexton said, "Every indication we have, from the media coverage, the fan feedback, the awareness and the interest that we’ve seen in the U.S. Grand Prix gives us indication that it’s got considerable growth opportunity as we move through the years, starting with ’13." A telling indicator for the race’s sustainable success is that in ’12 more than 60% of fans came from outside of Texas. Sexton said fans came from "more than 40 countries, primarily Mexico, England and Canada, and then kind of evenly distributed throughout the other international countries and markets."

F1 Global Expansion Series Part 1 -- Europe.
F1 Global Expansion Series Part 3 -- Asia.
F1 Global Expansion Series Part 4 -- Australia.

Korea’s professional basketball league "was forced to issue a public apology Tuesday after prosecutors arrested basketball legend and Wonju Dongbu Promy head coach Kang Dong-hee the previous night on charges of manipulating games," according to Kim Tong-hyung of the KOREA TIMES. KBL Commissioner and a lawmaker of the governing Saenuri Party Han Sun-kyo promised "a package of reforms to restore the integrity of the competition." This includes "adjusting league rules on drafting rookies and signing free-agent players to reduce teams’ motivation for 'tanking,' or losing on purpose for advantages in picking and signing new players." However, Han also stressed that the postseason "will progress as scheduled, despite suggestions by some teams to suspend it." Han said if the accusations against him are confirmed to be true, Kang "will face a lifetime ban from the league" (KOREA TIMES, 3/12).

KANG DENIES CHARGES: In Seoul, Gwang-lip & Sang-soo reported the Uijeongbu prosecution said that Kang "intentionally threw four Dongbu games" during the '10-11 season in February and March '11 after receiving 47M won ($42,883) from two brokers. Kang has been the country's best point guard since he played for Chung Ang University and then a corporate team run by Kia Motors. After the creation of the professional league, Kang, nicknamed "A Wizard on the Court," had 3,738 points, 938 rebounds and 2,201 assists until his retirement in '04. During the press conference, Han said that "he and other KBL officials still see Kang as the accused, not as a criminal, citing Kang’s strong denial of the charge" (KOREA JOONGANG DAILY, 3/13).

National Rugby League Cronulla Sharks' legal advisor Alan Sullivan "has indicated that Sharks players may have an arguable defence if they are charged by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority for alleged offences in 2011," according to Stuart Honeysett of THE AUSTRALIAN. It has been reported up to 14 players "face bans from six months to two years if found guilty of taking banned substances, including horse drugs," in '11 when controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank was at the club. Sullivan, who "raised the glimmer of hope on Sydney" said, "I think the players may have an arguable defense. We don't know everything ASADA has got but it is critical to the ASADA case that they prove the substances were prohibited" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/13).

NEW FIGURE IN PROBE: In Sydney, Josh Massoud reported a mystery assistant of Dank "has emerged as the key figure in ASADA's probe" into Cronulla and NRL Manly Sea Eagles. Dank "didn't work alone during his six-year tenure at Brookvale." He engaged the help of an alleged supplement expert known among players and coaching staff as "The Gazelle." According to a former Manly player, who Monday spoke on the condition of anonymity, "The Gazelle" had links to a large national supplement retailer. It's believed former Head Coach Des Hasler "warned him away from the club before Dank's departure at the end of 2010." But concerns are rife that "The Gazelle" stayed in contact with certain players and Manly "could face difficulties should it be established they used, purchased or possessed banned supplements with his assistance" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/12).

UNITED FRONT: Also in Sydney, James Hooper reported three Manly players "are in the crosshairs of anti-doping authorities over banned performance-enhancing peptide CJC-1295." ASADA has told the Sea Eagles that "there is evidence to suggest three NRL stars face bans of up to two years" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/12). In Sydney, Daniel Lane wrote Manly players and coach Geoff Toovey "presented a united front on Tuesday when they said there was no reason for them to fear the anti-doping investigation that threatens to destroy Cronulla" (SMH, 3/13).

Scottish Premier League Ross County FC Chair Roy MacGregor fears that current plans for league reconstruction "will cost clubs heavily because it may lead to supporters opting not to buy season tickets," according to Ewing Grahame of the SCOTSMAN. The 12 Scottish Premier League clubs met at Hampden to continue discussions Monday. Afterward, the clubs confirmed that "they will vote on a reconstruction package" on April 15 with hopes it be implemented "by the start of next season." MacGregor believes, for example, that the idea of splitting the top two leagues into three at the end of the year "means fans will be less likely to make the season-book commitment." And since clubs rely on that guaranteed income each summer in order to set out budgets for the forthcoming campaign, the loss of revenue "would almost inevitably have a detrimental effect." MacGregor said, "Around 80% of the proposals are good -- having the one league body is a must and so is a fairer distribution of income and playoffs. We run the risk of short-changing fans with season tickets for a 22-game season and I believe that, in the long-term, if that isn’t sorted, then that will be the end of people buying season tickets" (SCOTSMAN, 3/12).

NO RUSH TO JUDGMENT: In Glasgow, Ian Orr reported MacGregor spoke after all 12 SPL clubs met at Hampden. MacGregor said, "We need to watch we don’t jeopardise the whole of Scottish football by making rash judgments. Maybe some fans will accept it. Maybe I’m old fashioned and it’s time to move on. Maybe it’s time for pay-as-you-go rather than season-tickets. But it would be good for all club’s fans to have that debate" (DAILY RECORD, 3/12).

One of sport's most respected anti-doping experts "has issued a damning indictment" of tennis' attempts to step up its drug-testing program, "questioning whether it has the money or the desire to make it work," according to Simon Cambers of the London GUARDIAN. Tennis last week "announced it is to adopt the athlete biological passport" but Anti-Doping Research President & CEO Don Catlin, considered to be one of the founders of modern drug-testing, said that "it is wasting its time." Catlin: "I would tell them not to bother. They're better off to increase the number of tests they do rather than spend it all on the passport. Doubling or tripling urine tests would be of more value than starting a passport because you need such a long lead-in. You need data over four or five years." Catlin, who ran the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory for 25 years, believes that "tennis is reacting to pressure rather than tackling the big problems for the right reasons." Catlin added, "It seems it's because there's so much flak in the newspapers that they're trying to do something. A lot of it looks like grandstanding -- whenever there's pressure, sport wakes up and looks to do something but then they realize later that it's not really [changed] anything. It's always hard to be critical of someone when they're trying to do something that's worthwhile. But if you're only taking two steps when 100 are needed, it's not going to work" (GUARDIAN, 3/12).

Australian Rugby League Commission Chair John Grant and CEO Dave Smith will "begin their quest to ensure the game has the same access to government funding" as the Australian Football League when they meet politicians in Canberra on Wednesday, according to Brad Walter of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Grant will meet with PM Julia Gillard, while Smith will meet with federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. The meetings have been planned for weeks and "will focus on government funding for a range of issues, from community work to stadium development" to providing more resources for the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's investigation into National Rugby League and AFL clubs. Development of a third major stadium in Sydney's west "has been mooted" and Smith said that it would be "one issue on the agenda" (SMH, 3/13).

In popularity, rugby "will really struggle to overtake football in the hearts of Brazilians," according to Francisco Junior of IG. Nevertheless, this has not stopped the Brazilian Rugby Confederation (CBRu) from overtaking the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) in the number of sponsorships associated with each organization. Apart from Nike, which supplies the Seleção's kits, the CBF has nine sponsors. In '11, the organization generated more than R$200M ($102M) in sponsorship revenue. The CBRu does not generate as much, but, in the number of sponsorships and partnerships, beats out the CBF (15 to 10). It also was only founded a couple years ago in '10 and is "already recognized internationally." Even if football is the "love of the Brazilian population, rugby certainly will grow" in the country (IG, 3/12).

The Qatar FA and Qatar Shell officially launched Il’Ab We’Yana, an extracurricular school program based on the FutbolNet methodology created by FC Barcelona Foundation. Il’Ab We’Yana, which is part of the broader KOORA TIME initiative announced by the QFA and Qatar Shell in February, "has been launched with three kick-off festivals in Doha and Al Khor" (GULF TIMES, 3/11). ... The Int'l University Sports Federation (FISU) has partnered with the Int'l Federation of American Football to add American Football to its sports program. The inclusion of American Football is the finalization of a long process of inter-federation discussions and an assessment of the sport by the FISUWorld University Championship (WUC) department (FISU).