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Volume 6 No. 214

Leagues and Governing Bodies

MotoGP, the pinnacle of int’l motorcycle racing, is expanding its global reach into new markets. The series will return to Argentina this season after more than a decade. In addition, countries like Thailand and Russia have signaled interest in hosting a MotoGP event. "We have plenty of markets and plenty of new countries that are willing to host MotoGP. It’s a global competition," said Ignacio Sagnier, communications manager for Dorna Sports, which is the commercial rights holder of MotoGP. Representatives and promoters from both countries have already held talks with MotoGP execs. In the case of Russia, which will host its first F1 race this fall, Sagnier told SBD Global, "The interest is there. They said, 'Okay, we would like to host a grand prix.' But I think it will be another two, maybe three years. They will have to build the circuit." The series also received interest from Wales, with work on the proposed new Circuit of Wales racetrack set to start this year. While several countries seem to be seizing the opportunity to become part of the booming sport, the race in Laguna Seca, Calif. was dropped from the calendar. Sagnier: "For us it was great to go to Laguna because we had only one category, but for Laguna Seca it was difficult to sustain the MotoGP race. So we had to move, and we moved to Argentina." However, MotoGP still has two U.S. races on its '14 schedule. The Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas will host its second MotoGP race on April 13, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome the riders on Aug. 10. MotoGP is also eyeing a return to Brazil. While this season’s provisional calendar included a Brazilian Grand Prix in late September, it is expected that the race will be delayed for at least another year.

BROADCAST BOOM: Last season’s championship fight between Spanish riders Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo helped MotoGP draw its largest TV audience in history in Spain, a country with a long motorcycle-racing tradition. The upcoming season will again be broadcast in more than 200 countries. In two of MotoGP's most important TV markets, new broadcasters are set to make their debut this season. BT Sport will replace BBC in the U.K., and Sky Italia will take over Mediaset's spot as the home of MotoGP in Italy. "BT will present its broadcast team in London in mid-February. It's going to be a new era for us," Sagnier said. The '14 season will start with the Qatar Grand Prix on March 23. In addition to the top category, MotoGP, riders will also compete in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes. "So we have plenty of riders, characters and things going on in the new season. We think that the 2014 season is going to be amazing," Sagnier said.

The Australian Institute of Sport defended the A$500,000 ($437,700) "price tag on its new logo at Monday's unveiling, saying it would generate more commercial investment in the long term," according to the AAP. Australian Sports Commission CEO Simon Hollingsworth said that the "upfront cost had to be weighed against future corporate benefits." Hollingsworth: "We believe that in the medium and long term that this investment is going to generate significantly more revenue for the AIS, which will then be invested back into sport" (AAP, 2/3). In Sydney, Jon Tuxworth reported 1,500m dual Gold Medalist swimmer Kieren Perkins said that the "merit of the decision will be determined by whether it generates more revenue to help Australia climb the Olympic medal tally." The new logo "consists of five golden lines resembling tracks, sleekly curved into the shape of Australia." Hollingsworth was "adamant no athlete or sport has had their funding reduced due to the re-branding." Hollingsworth said, "No athlete or sport has had their funding reduced as a result of this and in the grand scheme of our total investment in sport, this investment is quite a small one" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 2/4).

Frustration within Australia's major codes "over the painstaking approach" taken by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency "gave way to optimism" Monday as the Australian Football League and National Rugby League "welcomed news" that a former Federal Court judge "had been enlisted to bring the year-long investigation to a conclusion," according to Brent Read of THE AUSTRALIAN. Federal Minister for Sport Peter Dutton will review the ASADA investigation into supplement use in the AFL and NRL, and "complete a report by the end of April." NRL Head of Integrity Jim Doyle said, "The NRL supports any measures that will assist ASADA in bringing this current investigation to a conclusion." An AFL spokesperson said, "We welcome the introduction of a very experienced legal professional to help bring it to a conclusion" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/4). In Sydney, Walter & Carayannis reported infraction notices "may still be issued" against NRL and AFL players while Federal Court Judge Garry Downes is reviewing details. However, beyond an April deadline for Downes to finalize his report, "no date has been fixed for the end of the investigation." ASADA "would proceed as normal in its investigations," which have focused on events at Cronulla in '11 and Essendon in '12 (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 2/4). Also in Sydney, bush rugby league officials, players and fans "have been complaining about a lack of support and genuine respect for years." Over the next three weeks, all 16 NRL clubs will be involved in a series of pre-season trials. But just two of these games "will be played in the bush." Country Rugby Leaguee Chair Jock Colley said, "Just another kick in the guts" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 2/3).

U.S. cable billionaire John Malone has "approached the principal shareholder in Formula One about buying a stake in the motor racing series, in a move that could radically alter the relationship between media companies and the owners of live sports rights," according to Chassany, Blitz & Mance of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Sources "familiar with the matter" said that the "chairman of Liberty Global and Liberty Media has held preliminary talks with CVC Capital Partners," which owns about 35% of F1. Any deal is "expected to value the motorsport" at more than $9B including debt. Malone's Liberty Global has spent almost $30B on "European cable assets in the past two years while Liberty Media is the driving force" behind a $61B battle to "control Time Warner Cable" and consolidate U.S. cable. Any "move into sports rights ownership would give his expanding empire an advantage over rivals" such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., BT and "others who spend billions of dollars to secure the rights to broadcast live sport." It would also "intensify the rivalry" between Malone and Murdoch, who made an "unsuccessful pitch to buy F1 three years ago." F1 boasts a global TV audience of about 450 million viewers (FT, 2/3). In N.Y., Claire Atkinson wrote while the talks are "in the early stages and could eventually fall apart, the purchase of the global open-wheel racing circuit would put Malone on the other side of the table when it comes to sports rights fees." A source said F1 "could be used to drive" Eurosport, as Discovery last month announced that it was increasing its stake in Eurosport from 21% to 51%. Malone controls 29% "of the voting power" at Discovery. Liberty Media also owns the MLB Atlanta Braves (N.Y. POST, 2/3).

The IOC said that "no representative of the suspended Indian Boxing Federation" can participate in the forthcoming Indian Olympic Association elections (THE HINDU, 2/1). ... Panama's Olympic Committee said that the Int'l Basketball Federation (FIBA) lifted the two-year suspension imposed to Panama "and again approved" the Panamanian Basketball Federation (XINHUA, 2/2). ... Cuba's "return to a tournament of the Caribbean’s top baseball teams after a half-century absence is being met with protests in Venezuela." About 200 people "carrying signs such as 'Cuba go home' gathered outside a hotel on Margarita Island," where Cuban team Villa Clara was "resting following its debut in the five-nation tournament" (AP, 2/3).