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Posted By: James Allen  |  06 Jun 2012   |  3:19 pm GMT  |  54 comments

Formula 1 has a significant new umbrella body to represent the interests of a key group of stakeholders after the sport’s circuits came together to form the Formula One Promoters Association (FOPA).

A report in today’s The Independent revealed details of the creation of FOPA, with the various race venues having joined forces last month to create a company registered in Geneva, Switzerland and chaired by Australian GP chief Ron Walker. Silverstone, the home of the British GP, is part of the new body and its chairman Neil England told the newspaper that such an organisation was not only overdue, but had common interests to air going forward.

“We have historically lacked a co-ordinated voice and the Formula One Promoters Association gives us the opportunity to have that,” he said. “There are a number of matters of common interest and I think it is important that those are voiced.”

The move is likely to prove significant: Circuit promoter fees account for 33.6% of F1′s total turnover of $1.22 bn, which is 1.6% more than the sport gets from TV and broadcast contracts. It is also seen as one of the key areas of growth for F1 revenues in future.  With F1′s powerbrokers working towards the signing of a new Concorde Agreement of the end of the season, and a flotation of part of the business planned at some point this year, the next few months are key ones for the future direction of the sport.

Bernie Ecclestone has always famously driven a hard bargain with circuit promoters, no more so than during the drawn-out saga over the future of the British GP a couple of years ago, but meanwhile today Silverstone has underlined its continued importance to the sport and success of its event by announcing that fewer than 5,000 tickets remain available for next month’s race.

A limited number of three-day tickets can still be purchased for general admission areas and grandstands, with just over 1,000 grandstand tickets available for race-day only. Silverstone has increased its capacity by 3,500 for this year’s race and are now expecting the July 6-8 event to sell out in advance. Fans still interested in tickets can visit the Silverstone website.

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54 Comments
  1. ed24f1 says:

    The fact that Ron Walker, one of Bernie’s long time allies, is chair of this board doesn’t give me much confidence that it will actually have any meaningful influence – but I hope I’m wrong.

    1. CTP says:

      absolutely. my first thought too. shouldn’t be too hard to divide and conquer this group, should it?

    2. c-m says:

      True, but then look how many times Bernie has tried to axe the Aus GP or Aus have tried to reduce their payments.

      1. ed24f1 says:

        Yeah, that’s a fair point, but I think that’s generally a game between the state government and Bernie rather than between Bernie and Ron themselves.

      2. fullthrottle says:

        This can’t be bad. If Ron Walker is Bernie’s puppet, a big if, there will come somebody at some point in the future that won’t be. Anyway he is representing other promoters, whose main opinions must be voiced by Ron Walker. I don’t think there is too much room there for Ron Walker to side with Bernie in any affair where the promoters disagree with.

    3. Gudien says:

      Not something Bernie, nor his successor wanted to see. This will ultimately become part of a huge struggle for control of F-1; Teams/Tracks/FIA/Bernie’s successor.

  2. Tony says:

    If anyone needs to join an Umberella group it’s Spa.

    1. Andrew Carter says:

      I think Bernie is the promotor for Spa (correct me if I’m wrong).

      Wouldn’t that be like arguing with yourself?

    2. andrew says:

      But Spa belongs to Bernie, so they can’t join.

    3. Pete Watson says:

      Surely everyone is missing the gag that it always p**es it down in Spa?!

    4. Shocks&Awe says:

      I think Tony was just referring to the rain…

    5. Nick says:

      Is that because it rains a lot there?

    6. Tony says:

      Yes it rains a lot at Spa, but they hold the distinction of having the only GP to be cancelled because of sunshine. Three days of intense heat+ huge sticky tyres+ 1000 HP ripped chunks out of the freshly laid tarmac.

  3. Giles says:

    Am i the only one that finds the choice of acronym slightly poor as i read it as “faux pas”

    1. Wade Parmino says:

      Perhaps it is rather fitting. LOL!

  4. Andrew Halliday says:

    What exactly will this group achieve?

    As a 16 year fan of F1 having attended an average of 2 races per year over this time, I’d love to set up FOFA – Formula One Fans Association. We’d analyse the cost to fans of attending grands prix and what us fans get for our money. I don’t know who would benefit from this though…

    1. i dont know .. but FOFA sounds good :)

      +1

      Matt – let me know if you need help setting up website :)

      1. DB says:

        FOFA can refer to a cute and/or chubby girl in Portuguese (but they may take offense). It literally means something feminine and soft.

        These acronyms are fun in Portuguese! The defunct FOCA means Seal (the animal).

        I’m proposing FORA. Formula One Racing Association. And it means OUT in Portuguese and it would be someone to worry about the racing, which seems more and more forgotten in these business times.

      2. fullthrottle says:

        Same in Spanish but without the cute part. FOFA sounds very bad, seriously.

        I think we should go with French here, as GP. Indeed it would be better, IMO, to group together with other motorsports, and drop the Formula One part could be wise. GP is common ground in several world series, and this hypothetical association would only benefit of a larger number of members that attend to Grand Prix.

        Yeah, I liked the idea.

      3. fullthrottle says:

        I mean Andrew’s original idea.

    2. Tornillo Amarillo says:

      +1

      Yeah, we have to negotiate, we need the price of tickets, travel expenses, Internet, caps, T-shirts and the likes to be deductible of income taxes… as a cultural event…

      1. Alex W says:

        Let’s call it a religious experience, make the enitre thing tax free!

    3. James says:

      I’ve seen this group proposed on many forums accross the web and on Facebook – I think there is even a website set up already for this!

      What you have to ask yourself is, though, what difference would it make? For as long as venues are being filled and/or Governments continue to pay to hold a race, what does Bernie or the FIA care?

      Should a race venue start losing attendees, especially in Europe, it’ll simply just be dropped from the calender and replaced with a borefest somewhere which has been designed by Tilke.

      1. fullthrottle says:

        I think it could be fun, and probably members are going to get some good deals, just for the numbers and organization. Maybe at some point it can achieve something more meaningfull, who knows.

      2. Fofa already exists. They run a fan survey on the Sepang website and have their own facebook page.

        Not entirely sure what they do with this info.

        As for race fans, it’s the law of offer and demand where it matters i.e. some circuits don’t worry too much about attendance beyond a certain point.

    4. frank says:

      Amen I can’t afford to take my family to the U.S. race and I live in Texas go figure

    5. Lezza says:

      Jeez, let’s go.
      C’mon James, give us a leg up with a platform.

    6. Blondie says:

      Your idea for the FOFA sounds good. Just be glad you are not stuck having to go to the Austin GP. Those people are the true meaning of greedy. They want to get rich quick at the expense of the fans. You cannot buy a one day ticket, you can only buy 3 day which means you are forced to stay in hotels in the area that are super greedy. It is just not worth it unless you make it you holiday for the year.

  5. 6 Wheeled Tyrrell says:

    Long overdue, it is important for the sport to maintain some of it’s classic venues such as Spa, Suzuka, Silverstone, Montreal and Albert Park (I don’t mention Monaco because there is no way that race will ever be dropped from the calendar).

    Hopefully they can establish a proper negotiating platform in order to curb the excessive increase in race fees commanded by CVC, otherwise most of the races will end up being in middle and far east Tilke-dromes funded by oil rich governments.

  6. Justin says:

    Oooooo, well this should provide an interesting twist the next time a circuit’s contract is up. I think they may try to collectively bargain for a standard hosting fee for all the races, as a group they will certainly have more leverage in any negotiations with Bernie.

    1. JR says:

      Standard hosting fee … Monza and Monaco won’t like that, although Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain etc etc would love to pay the pittance Monza pays.

    2. Onko says:

      Well it could be a long wait for anything
      constractive coming out of this new body.
      In view the the IPO of F1 has been put on the
      slow burner as the result of Face Book debacle
      and the fact people don’t like the inside
      seling which CVC have done and got their money
      back, it seems Bernie and the teams are the only one waiting for their pot of gold
      One have to wonder will the signitures for the
      Concorde agreement from the teams come
      forward if at all.

  7. Roberto says:

    Although there are common interests between the different promoters, it will be quite difficult to compare ticket prices given the differente economies of ech hosting country and the level of support of each government. It´s a good idea, but i don´t think it will be a platform that will lead BE or FOM to reduce fees or others, at the end every circuit and promoter will negotiate by itself.

    If BE gets hardline what they will do stablish a parallel champiomship? with who?. What i think theay can agree is how FOM and the teams offers them other activities that can bring more fans to the circuits, fill up the stands, so the fans get more bank for their money and everybody will be happy.

  8. Egal says:

    If you think this hasn’t been instigated by Bernie or someone close to him then you’re being very naïve.

    This is another way to show the (financial) world that is well and the future rosy in the world of F1. We have the teams on bord, we have the TV on board and now we have all the circuits on board. All with long term contracts – guaranteed revenue into the future.

    Now what P/E are you going to give us and at what level are we going to float the lot?? If Facebook is worth THAT amount, we’re worth…….. $$$$$$

    1. James Allen says:

      This is something BE has not wanted to happen before now.

      He’d be more concerned about the tracks forming a union than the teams

      1. Keith says:

        James, your spot on.
        I do know from a private source about the amount a track pays out, and it is about time they, track owners – promoters got their act together and challenged Bernie, as this in only one way of keeping ticket prices within reach of the average fan.

        I was stunned about the amount that Bernie and his associated companies take from a track on the days of the meeting / race, and what is left to the promoters. Sure where the government of the country is the track owner and promoter, then fine, if he wants to take the money, but the tracks we race on which don’t have a lot of government support, and not owned by Bernie, find it really hard to make any sort of return on investment either in the short term or over a longer period of years. Not the correct way to run a business long term.

      2. gaz909 says:

        There is a danger that by coming together they essentially control ticket prices and thus the market, this hampering competition and therefore becoming a cartel.

        They are essentially competing against each other. Many people “pick” their GP of choice and go for a holiday. I go to Hungary for example because I get more bang for my buck. The last thing I need is courses getting together. It does not encourage a true market economy.

        In history these “working groups” tend to go on to control the market, be it “fuel surcharge” or petrol extraction control groups such as OPEC.

        I’m just wary.

      3. Blondie says:

        Don’t worry about the track owners in the USA. Bernie may get some money before the race, but if those track owners over there don’t want to give him more, they won’t. And there is nothing Bernie can do. He and his attorneys will never get a judgement from an American business. The USA will freeze his money around the world if he tries to drag money out of American track owners. So whatever he got up front, he should be satisfied with. He is desperate to have the race in the USA, so he will be a nice little guy and settle for whatever. Talk tough but behind doors, settle. I like Bernie but, he is no match for the Americans.

      4. db4tim says:

        I think this is the best news in F! to come in a very long time ….

      5. Keith says:

        I also go to Hungry, for the same reason. I can’t afford to go to Silverstone each year because of the cost. If the fees keep on going up, then pretty soon all you will get at the race is suits in a corp. box.
        I use to take the girlfriend to Spain in the early days of cheap airfare and the watch the testing. We would get in free at the beginning and have free access to walk anywhere. That started to change a little, and in the end we were charged to enter the track. She and her friends would go shopping during the day and we had the track for the day. Worked out perfectly, and inexpensive to boot.

        Bernie just takes too much from the track. A single one off fee is fine to put on the race, but all the extras just kill the so called promoter’s profit, which leaves nothing to reinvest back into the track. Bernie hasn’t really got to grips with the internet yet, and I would say to him, drop all the extras you cream off the track, and look there for new sources of revenue. Leave the average ticket price within reach of the true fan.

        A group or union of track owners – promoters who all have a license – accredited to hold a F1 race would be a powerful voice to bring or keep Bernie in line. After all there is a very limited number of tracks that Bernie could shift the F1 races to if he didn’t want to play ball with the union. The promoters know that the true fans make up the “show”, so by raising the prices each year they push the fan away and in return get the corporate suits – sponsors.

      6. James Allen says:

        Think about the post-Bernie side to this organisation….

      7. Keith says:

        James, I more than most people on your site, know about what Bernie has done. I have going to Grandprix’s since the mid 1970’s as and when they were on. I know what Bernie has done to the sport in the last 30 plus years. How the tracks have improved greatly, and safety for the fans and drivers have come along greatly. We have also had a lot of teams come and go during that time period. Yes this comes at a cost, and we the fans have paid our fair share. Also the show that is put on has only a few rivals, that been the Olympics and the World Cup which only happen every 4 years. The F1 Grandprix circuit happens each year.

        I would also expect someone to be rewarded accordingly to what they have created over the last 30 plus years. I am aware that many times Bernie has taken a massive gamble and paid for things out of his pocket, not knowing if he will get a return on the investment. Here we may say that Bernie has been well paid for his vision and deal making. He may not think so, and nor may a lot of other people, but it has given him a great life style for him and his family from where he started in life, and not many people can say that in their life time.

        My concern is what is going to happen to this sport over the next 30 years. If ticket prices keep going up, then the true fan will not be able to afford to go to many Races, and will instead sit at home and watch it on TV. The atmosphere at the race will slowly die off. You, yourself have mentioned a number of times while broadcasting about the fans at races and how important they are to the show.

  9. ED12 says:

    As every contract Bernie signs has a c confidentially clause in it, I can’t see the FOPA meetings lasting long.

    1. Keith says:

      As someone who works in the Finance markets, these types of contracts, the figures are known, but yes we can’t talk about them. I think if the Fans knew how much Bernie takes from the tracks during the meetings, not just the so called fee, which is common knowledge, then he would have a riot on his hands from the average fan. Hence why he wants that clause in the contract.
      Will this work – yes and no. Government owned – promoted races, yes they yell a lot, but then calm down when they look back at the economic figures a race brings to the city and country. Small amount of money, big return and jobs. All politicians like that.

      1. I don’t think the public would know the difference between $30m or $250m. These figures are beyond the reach of 99.9% of human beings, in terms of understanding what they represent.

        I do agree this association will only work to some degree. Thailand and Argentina are waiting for their GP to materialise, and placing Russia, France and New Jersey will require some room.

  10. Fulveo Ballabeo says:

    In theory, a great idea. In practice, perhaps not so much. BCE quite easily divide/conquers the teams. Should be even easier to do so with the tracks. And yes, with Walker as chair, does make one wonder how independent FOPA will be.

  11. DTC says:

    It will be interesting to see how this works in practice… Unfortunately Bernie’s divide and rule policy will likely work even better in this situation than it does with the teams.

  12. FOPA? A bad name. SUPA – now that’s wot I’m talking about!

  13. Richard Shaw says:

    lets review what has happend in two years time!

  14. Oh dear. In the same way that Toyota didn’t realise that MR2 is french for shit, I think that the name FOPA could be a faux-pas…

  15. ACr says:

    Might start a group for us fans, Formula One Devotee Association, of FODA for short.

  16. Dufus says:

    Im going to start a group called
    FUBAR

    Fans Upset with Boring Artificial Racing.
    Of course there’s another meaning…..

  17. Elie says:

    You will probably find that this has been recommended by Legal people working on the flotation. I hope in future they have more say in what fees they have to pay rather than have an individual or CVC say take it or leave it.

  18. Craig in Manila says:

    I spose someone will have to apologise to the existing FOPA (Formula One Photographers Association) as they’ve been using the acronym since 1985 according to their website.

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