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The lynch mob speaks up

NEWS STORY
04/08/2011

On Monday Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt suggested that the next Fan Forum held by the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) in the UK could turn into a lynch mob given that some of the teams have actively endorsed the recent deal to broadcast all F1 races live on Sky Sports next year.

The move leaves each F1 fan saddled with an 470 annual bill if they want to follow the sport live from next year so the endorsement from any of the teams seems to be a huge slap in the face. Indeed, it seems particularly galling given how much FOTA has claimed to be interested in the fans' opinions. Unsurprisingly. they have already started to vent their anger.

The groundswell of hatred towards the BBC-Sky deal is so great that none of the teams can really afford to ignore it let alone endorse it. A total of 28,800 have alone signed one petition (http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/keepf1onthebbc) against it in just six days. To put that in perspective, it is nearly as many people as Williams, one of F1's oldest teams, has following it on Twitter. Bearing this in mind makes it even more surprising that Williams' chairman Adam Parr recently went so far as to claim that fans will be charged to watch F1 to cover the costs of the sport. That's not all.

Yesterday Parr expanded on his comments and the sports journalists he spoke to reported them warts and all. Early on he repeated his point that "the fundamental challenge is that Formula 1 is a very, very expensive show." This is of course true but there is no reason why fans should have to cover its costs. Indeed, one could easily argue that it is pretty insensitive for the teams to publicly lament the high costs of F1 only days after each UK F1 fan has been hit with a 470 annual bill just to follow the sport live. But Parr didn't stop there.

"We are trying to put in place the best possible and most accessible deal we can for British fans," he added. Try telling that to the millions of fans who want to watch every race live next year but can't because they don't have a Sky Sports subscription. That's not what you call "accessible."

Parr goes on to compare the situation to that of avant-garde circus company Cirque du Soleil yet this too just reminds readers of the huge bill they are being saddled with. "If you go to Cirque de Soleil and you see cutting edge performers in an amazing facility, and constantly updating the show, it costs you 100 for a good ticket," said Parr. Given that this is less than a quarter the price of the subscription required to watch F1 live it doesn't seem to be the best comparison.

In fact, for the same price as the annual subscription to Sky Sports you could buy three day general admission tickets to six F1 races including Monaco, Silverstone, Turkey and Canada.

The write up of Parr's comments concluded in a rather spectacular fashion with his view that "I think the number of races can increase a little bit. We might have to look at the format of the weekend but we could do a couple more races. There are ways of increasing revenues."

One wonders why on earth Parr thinks that fans should give a damn about how much money the teams are making given that next year they will be getting a bumper payment from Sky at the public's expense. It seems that we aren't the only ones asking questions like this.

Soon after Parr's comments had aired, discussion inevitably started on message boards. 'Is anyone else a bit fed up of hearing Adam Parr's opinions on everything?' Three fans simply responded with the word 'yes'. The author claimed that "it's mainly the sanctimonious tone of most of the things he comes out with that gets me, he seems completely oblivious to what the sport is all about."

Another fan indicated that Parr's latest comments had coloured their opinion of him. "I don't have such a negative opinion of him, but I was disappointed by his recent comments. When read as a piece, what he is saying is that he wants costs down - meaning his team's direct costs, and so higher income. He is saying, shift some more costs over to the fans (pay-per-view) so my costs will go down."

Other comments were far more colourful than that as indicated by the view in another discussion with the heading 'Will Williams ever regain its former glory?' One fan responded by saying that it "will be difficult with people like Adam Parr, constantly opening his pie hole to swim against the tide of public opinion."

True, these are just the opinions of a few fans but the bottom line is that the public overall is most certainly in the driving seat. If they don't want to watch F1 on Sky they won't. News about the viewing figures will soon get out and, if they decrease, the teams' sponsorship income could take a battering as a result. In fact, if I was any F1 sponsor right now I would be getting a bit hot under the collar about exactly how many fans are going to continue following the teams when this new deal begins.

The sensible solution would seem to be for the teams to simply stay under the radar. By actively endorsing the deal they risk the wrath of the mob and given that their very business model depends on the fans, that is surely the last thing they want.

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