Event organisers threaten to walk away from the World Rally Championship
|By David Evans||Thursday, May 31st 2012, 19:17 GMT|
The World Rally Championship faces a fresh crisis after event organisers threatened to walk away from the one-year contract being offered by the FIA for 2013.
The FIA is hoping to rubber-stamp next year's WRC calendar at the June 15 meeting of the World Motor Sport Council - but the chances of that happening appear remote following significant unrest among events organisers.
The rallies which will form part of the 2013 schedule have been sent a five-page, single-season agreement from the FIA and told it must be signed and returned to the governing body by June 8. Failure to do this, they have been informed, will result in them losing their place on the calendar.
The contract dispute comes over an additional €100,000 (£80,000) fee which has been imposed on the organisers to cover the cost of timing and safety tracking and the production and distribution of television.
While none of the organisers were willing to be quoted, one source from an existing event said: "We are angry about this. This does not feel right. Don't forget, it's not just the money we have to pay. Last year, with North One Sport, we got the timing and tracking for free when we gave rights for our television and we were paid €25,000 [£20,000] by NOS.
"So actually, we're having to find €125,000. And this is on top of the €140,000 [£112,000] calendar fee we already have to pay. Suddenly, it's more than a quarter of a million [Euros] to be a round. This is the complete reverse of what we had last year.
"We don't sign this contract. We want to talk about it. But they [the FIA] don't give us the chance to talk about it. We want to talk about this in June [at the WMSC], but the FIA wants us to make a decision so quickly.
"I think if they [the FIA] expect everybody to sign and be happy, they are very wrong."
WRC Commission president Jarmo Mahonen pointed out that the loss of NOS was a contributing factor to the payment clause in the contract.
"In the current absence of a promoter, the championship needs investment from the manufacturers, the organisers and the FIA," he said. "It is also needed to cover part of the cost of the timing, safety tracking and television production."
The organisers also questioned what the television, timing and tracking provisions would be, and whether the rallies could source it themselves. The timing and tracking has been provided by Stage One Technology for the last 10 years.
"Can the FIA guarantee we will have the best television station?" said one organiser. "Can they guarantee we will have many million people watching the sport around the world? And we don't know what we will get for [timing and tracking] next season.
"If it's a guarantee that nothing changes from the systems we have in place this year, then that's good. OK, it's still an awful lot of budget, but we do know what we're getting is tried and tested and works perfectly. For the television, we know nothing. Maybe we can do this ourselves and save the money. Maybe this is the solution."
Mahonen said rallies potentially working alone would be detrimental to the development of the series.
"It is much more complex than organisers providing these elements as individual components," said Mahonen. "Having common systems works on a number of different levels, especially in regard to consistency for the WRC brand, its image and the future growth of the championship, as well as safety.
"But equally, the new media platforms that are of such value are driven from the content on the championship website. Without consistency, we cannot deliver this content.
"We need to continue to embrace technology and deliver content in a way that our fans want to receive it; this would not be possible if we were working with different systems at each event."