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Volume 10 No. 22

Events and Attractions

F1 left Bahrain on Monday with CEO Bernie Ecclestone "talking of a five-year extension to the race contract and the possibility of switching it to the start of the season next year," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. Ecclestone: "I feel they do a super job and we're more than happy to give them a new contract for five years. I don't see any problems." Bahrain Int'l Circuit Chair Zayed Alzayani added, "We're committed to motorsports, and F1 especially. We were the first race in the Middle East and we call ourselves the home of motorsport in the Middle East." Bahrain has twice before hosted the opening round and officials "have made no secret of their desire to return to the coveted slot." Ecclestone "has been supportive of the idea." Alzayani said of the date change, "It's on the table" (REUTERS, 4/22).

WEATHER WATCHING: The PA's Ian Parkes reported Ecclestone's one concern is Bahrain "hosting a test session shortly before the race, believing it would become processional as teams would be setting up their cars for the event." Despite the need for warm weather ahead of a season, following complaints this year of the rain and cold that blighted running in Jerez and Barcelona, Bahrain is "definitely on the agenda." Alzayani: "That is one of the concerns, and that's his opinion, but I don't think that would happen. With a change of weather the whole set-up can change, so you never know" (PA, 4/22).

Formula E, the electric-powered racing series, announced on Monday that its L.A. race will be held in the fall of '14. The series, which will debut next year, is covering the cost of the race and will work with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach to put up fencing, walls and infrastructure for the event. The series is looking at two potential courses for the race and will finalize the course and date of the race by December, Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said. He added that the series is in talks with “a couple of groups” interested in partnering to promote the event, but added that the race would be underwritten by the series. He said, “There is no sanction fee for the city. What we are for the city, is the possibility to race in an iconic place. That’s what the sponsors are looking for. We (will) come in and out quickly and try to minimize disruption for the city.”

SCHEDULE FILLING OUT: The series has announced eight of 10 cities where it plans to race in '14. Those include: London, Rome, Miami, L.A., Beijing, Putrajaya (Malaysia), Buenos Aires and Rio de Janiero. It will announce another city in Asia next month and a final city before the end of the year. Agag said, “We have over 50 cities that want to host a race. Many are attractive. But since we are unproven, we want to be very careful. We want to go to established cities. It’s important for us to give the right message, that the electric car is a solution for the cities.” The series hopes to add two races per year until it runs a total of 20 races in a calendar year. It hasn’t finalized any media rights deals to date in the U.S., but Agag said that Formula E will begin selling its rights more aggressively in the fall. By then, it will have announced more teams and the final two cities, which he believes will help strengthen its offering for broadcasters. Formula E also continues to work on sponsorship sales. Agag set a goal of selling $100M in sponsorship by the end of the year. The series only announced one deal, with Michelin, but it is in discussions with “five to seven groups” and deals with them would bring its sales total to $40M, Agag said.

Int'l Rugby Board CEO Brett Gosper said that the U.S. "is not ready to host a rugby World Cup and needs to establish a sustainable professional league to help develop the sport there," according to Greg Stutchbury of REUTERS. The sport's "global showpiece" has only been held in "traditional rugby strongholds." The IRB, however, "has awarded hosting rights for the 2019 tournament to Japan." Gosper: "There is no question that anything that would drive interest in the (United) States would be fabulous. It would drive very high commercial revenues through broadcast (agreements), but I don't think they would be ready for a World Cup yet." Gosper added that by awarding the '19 tournament to Asia, it was "likely the subsequent event would return to a traditional rugby market before the IRB looked to expand into newer areas" (REUTERS, 4/22).

EQUAL FOOTING: The BANGKOK POST reported the IRB said that it has "revamped the 2015 World Cup match schedule to stop giving top nations an unfair advantage by allowing them a week's rest between games." Gosper also said that he had "moved to clamp down on clubs preventing players from smaller nations attending the tournament." However, Gosper admitted that "it was a difficult problem to solve." Small nations "complained bitterly" during the 2011 World Cup that "the timetable was skewed towards the game's traditional superpowers" because their matches were scheduled on weekends to maximize TV audiences. This gave teams six or seven days to recover, while the less high-profile sides "often had to play midweek and weekend matches." Gosper said that the timetable for the '15 tournament in England, due to be released in late April or early May, "had been altered to fix the problem." Gosper: "There's very strong fairness in terms of rest periods and so on. It will be the same for all teams" (BANGKOK POST, 4/22).

The Russian National Badminton federation said that Kazan, Russia "will host the 2014 European badminton championships." The agreement "was signed Monday" (XINHUA, 4/22). ... Iran "officially announced preparedness to host the 3rd Islamic Solidarity Games, which was due to be held in Indonesia in June but was postponed due to the delayed supply of the necessary equipment and facilities" (AL BAWABA, 4/21). ... The Country Rugby League "has scrapped plans to take next year's City-Country clash to Broken Hill in fear of a repeat of the disappointing crowd that turned up at Coffs Harbour on Sunday." The unflattering crowd of 4,635 "has again raised questions about the legitimacy of the game and the importance of the fixture" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 4/22).