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FOPA statement misconstrued, claims Baku promoter

NEWS STORY
07/02/2019

Just days after agreeing a new deal which will see F1 remain in Baku until 2023, Arif Rahimov, executive director of Baku City Circuit, claims that last week's statement from 16 race promoters was widely misconstrued.

The promoters were in London to meet with Formula One Management, but the day before the meeting, much to Chase Carey's apparent consternation, a majority of the promoters held their own meeting and it was this meeting that resulted in the infamous statement.

For clarity, below is the statement in its entirety:

Following a meeting of the Formula One Promoters' Association, held today in London, representatives of 16 Grands Prix expressed the following concerns. FOPA believes:

• It is not in the long term interest of the sport that fans lose free access to content and broadcasting;

• There is a lack of clarity on new initiatives in F1 and a lack of engagement with promoters on their implementation;

• New races should not be introduced to the detriment of existing events although the association is encouraged by the alternative business models being offered to prospective venues.

As we enter a new season of the sport that we have promoted for many decades, the Promoters seek a more collaborative approach to the development of the championship and the opportunity to offer their experience and expertise in a spirit of partnership with Formula 1 and the FIA.

Ends

However, Rahimov insists that it was in no way intended as an attack on F1 bosses or the way the business/sport is being managed.

"We are members of FOPA and I was present at that meeting," he tells ESPN, "but it was never the idea to attack Formula One and never the idea to push them into doing something that they are not.

"The idea of FOPA was that all the promoters gather as one and speak with one voice about things that are not in their contract and things that are changing in their industry and to be able to help Formula One improve the sport. The way it has been accepted as a complaint to Formula One through the press... this was never meant to be a press release, it was more a way of us directing our concerns to Formula One about what can be improved in one voice.

"I think it just went a bit wrong," he admitted. "It was accepted (by the press) a bit wrong and obviously Formula One wasn't quite happy with the way it was dealt with. I think it was a lesson learned and the future cooperation between FOPA and Formula One will be more productive and less destructive."

Carey has made no secret not only of his displeasure, but the way in which such issues are discussed openly in the media, the American clearly unaware of the sport's long tradition of washing its dirty linen in public.

"It wasn't meant as an attack," insists Rahimov, "it was a way to address Formula One with our concerns and find a way to fix it. So it wasn't really an attack on Formula One in the way it was presented in the press. It shouldn't have happened like that, it was meant to be very positive and open and in the end it just went upside down.

"It's more just small things," he added, "like grid girls, a lot of promoters weren't aware that this was going to change and then they found this change. All those small little things that promoters want to be aware of on an advisory level, just so we know before it appears in the press.

"In general, whenever we have a concern of an issue, we rarely face a situation where we hit a dead end and don't know how to fix it. We are very happy with our relationship in general and our direct relationship with F1, and that is why we have signed and extended our contract."

While Baku is known to be a "strong supporter" of FOPA, Rahimov would in fact have every right to feel more than a little aggrieved at the sport's owners for just a couple of months after buying F1, Liberty Media CEO, Greg Maffei, pretty much rubbished the event.

Claiming that the Azerbaijan race "does nothing to build the long-term brand and health of the business", Maffei told BBC Azeri that the reason such events were on the calendar was because the sport's previous attitude to new races was: "How much can I extract? How much upfront... so we end up with races in places like Baku where they paid us a big race fee but it does nothing to build the long-term brand and health of the business."

And this before they agreed a deal with that international hub of motor sport... Vietnam.

While two events were quick to rush to the aid of F1's management, Russia and Mexico both distancing themselves from the statement and its sentiment, Mexico subsequently learned that it is to lose its government funding after this year, which will cast future negations with Liberty in a new light.

Meanwhile, a Pitpass source at last week's meeting told us: "The press release was approved by the majority of promoters present at the meeting and reflects exactly, in measured tones, what was discussed. Issues of great concern to all promoters."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by RDFox, 10/02/2019 15:32

"Can't say I'd blame Carey for being a bit peeved at being blindsided by the press release. Perhaps, if FOPA feels so strongly about such things, they should send the message directly to Liberty first, before issuing the press release? If nothing else, so that LM can be prepared for it when it does go to the press.

Not as a matter of "it's not their right to do so," but as a matter of "it's just polite to give a heads-up before issuing something the press might sink its teeth into.""

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2. Posted by Canuck, 08/02/2019 14:10

"Strange acronym FOPA - sounds like Faux Pas - don't extend a hand to the wolf that may bite... hahahaha"

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3. Posted by TokyoAussie, 08/02/2019 3:42

"The most problematic statement is this:
"...promoters gather as one and speak with one voice about things that are not in their contract..."

FOPA will continue to be irrelevant, to their own detriment, until they start discussing their contract process."

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4. Posted by itc, 07/02/2019 10:34

"Free moustache wax all round?"

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