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GP Week : Issue 18
GPWEEK OPINION >> RALLY teams have been crying out for a promoter for the World Rally Championship but do they know what they really need or what a promoter should do? When the FIA’s WMSC declared that the FIA were being “directed” to proceed on this, the reaction was that it now all looked good. But will something useful happen? And what is the chance of progress, if the people with whom the FIA plan to be in discussion are the people who tried to do this work before, and whose ideas were progressively shot down by the FIA? What is a promoter to do? What must they achieve? Do they have to sort out the problems of the sport as they stand, or ignore the problems and present what they can to the outside world? At this time the FIA is engaged in trying to smooth out the imperfections of the sport, an everlasting ongoing task. The one thing that teams want and the sport needs is to bring the sport back into main stream – where your neighbours know the name of the world champion, where victory in a round of the world championship brings the public into showrooms, and a world championship rally location brings tourists. That is the sort of achievement the sport needs from a promoter. Whereas a lot of national and club level sport round the world is thriving, World Championship Rallying has little buzz about it at this time. There is low commercial confidence in the series. Sponsors do not rush to the sport. Advertisers do not head for newspapers or magazines with their pages of prepared rally-related copy. There is very little rallying on free-to-air television. Markku Alen, winner of 20 world championship rallies in his day, put his finger on the issue. He says that the problem with rallying today is that everybody wants to make rallying a show, not a sport. The problem is that it has to be a show in order to generate the funds to pay for the sport, because the events now cost much more money to organise. We cannot afford to run the sport as it is, let alone pay for it to be promoted properly. One of the popular debates in rallying today concerns calendars that do not automatically include ‘classic’ rallies. The ‘classic’ rallies are the events which the media-at- large knows and is comfortable to talk about.. What hope is there of commercial excitement when the championship does not include the few events that outsiders can easily recognize and relate to? The ‘classic’ rally debate is perhaps at the centre of the problem. The fact that those events were successful in the past does not make them successful now. Monte Carlo, for geographical reasons, cannot successfully be run according to the required organisational formats of the 21st century. The Safari Rally is no longer a commercial force. The Acropolis Rally, like Monte Carlo, suffers from the geographical restrictions but unlike Monte Carlo has financial restraints as well. The 1000 Lakes in Finland is still active but has changed its name and nobody recognises its heritage. The FIA is currently checking out promotion options with ISC, currently engaged in providing services to help run events, which it does with professional expertise. They also help make excellent films for television use. And they know the sport inside out. But should the FIA deal with them or head into new territory to find an outsider who can look at the inside of the sport from the outside? Sometimes it takes a stranger to tell people where they are going wrong. People tend to forget the world is a changing place. There are plenty more international sports these days, all seeking upward progress in the commercial hierarchy of the world. Countries which were once deserts are now domesticated and accessible places. For ecological reasons long distance motoring may not nowadays have the same allure. There are plenty of other reasons for spectators to jump into cars and go to faraway forests or mountains with their friends. And if they go there to find a rally, maybe their favourite Fords and Citroens will no longer be there. Up-to-date problems need up-to-date cures. WRC promotion – time for a fresh set of eyes? The Safari Rally is no longer a commercial force MArtin HolMes rallies editor o p in io n 23