Saturday, October 24, 2009

Help Save the British Grand Prix - Rennard style

How would you feel if your favourite sporting event was suddenly removed from the calendar?

Each year we have certain set iconic sporting events that we're aware of even if we absolutely hate the sports involved. How would you feel if the World Tennis Association decided not to hold a Grand Slam at Wimbledon anymore, or if the FA decided not to bother with the FA Cup, or if the Grand National was cancelled, or if Test Matches no longer happened in England any more.

The guy who holds the commercial rights to Formula One, the infamous Bernie Ecclestone, decided to give a 17 year contract for the British Grand Prix to Donington Park, a yet to be suitably expanded circuit near East Midlands Airport. Unfortunately, and as predicted by many, Donington's chances of holding the race have now fallen through. Silverstone, where the race has been held for many years, a circuit loved by fans, teams and drivers alike, could easily host the race again. Unfortunately, Bernie is doing some of his normal macho willy waving instead of doing anything sensible about securing the race's future.

If Silverstone is to host a race next year (and hopefully beyond) they need to start making arrangments soon. In fact, ideally, they should have done so by now, but it's still feasible. Those nice people at Brits on Pole who occasionally let me write for them so long as I promise not to crash their server have come up with a list of 5 things that people who want to see a British Grand Prix could do to try to influence the process.

I quite like the practicality of their ideas - they don't buy the idea that the internet, just by disappearing up its own backside in a frenzy can change things without real practical action. It's a bit like the idea that all the Facebook groups, twitter accounts and blogs in the world won't help if you don't get out on the streets door knocking and leafletting in the run up to the General Election.

Here are their 5 steps in full, but do click through to see their reasoning behind what they're doing:

"Demonstrate to Bernie that this race can still be successful
We know there’s absolutely zero point trying to get our views heard by Formula One Management. But there might be some mileage in demonstrating that the event can be profitable, even though three months’ worth of ticket-selling time has already been wasted. If you’re on tenterhooks waiting for tickets to become available, and aiming to be at the front of the queue to buy yours, turn your anticipation into something concrete with this Pledgebank pledge. We’re aiming get people who are planning or hoping to attend the race to show their support for it in a tangible way, so please consider signing up.

Let Silverstone know that you want to buy a ticket
Whether you preferred Donington, Silverstone or even an outside bet like Brands Hatch, it really is time to accept that it’s probably the old Northamptonshire airfield or bust, at least for 2010. Now, we respect the circuit’s need to come to an arrangement with Formula One management that is in its long-term commercial interest. And we know that a lot of ticket-selling time has been lost. But equally, we think it’s worth proving the strength of demand for this event. So, if you want to buy a ticket, make that clear. Let Silverstone know that you’d like to attend the race here. Ask them to inform you immediately if tickets go on sale.

Lobby the Formula One Teams’ Association
One of the few organisations in F1 that has shown any awareness that fans even have views – although if we are honest it has tended to be because those views accorded with its needs at the time. Even so, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said recently: “A lot of changes that have occurred in Formula One over recent years haven’t really taken into account the wishes of fans and we haven’t brought those into the thought process. And hopefully in future we will see much more of that.” So we suggest letting FOTA know that you want the British Grand Prix to stay on the calendar. Find their contact details here.

Lobby your favourite team
Following on from FOTA, it is worth noting that the date of the Monaco Grand Prix has just been moved by a week – because that’s what the teams needed to happen. Help convince them to bring that power to bear on our behalf. You can find contact details for all the British-based teams here and many, such as Brawn GP, Red Bull and McLaren, also maintain a presence on Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites. Let them know that their fans want to see them race in Britain next July, and ask them to help make sure the event happens.

Contact your MP
It’s part of your MP’s job to represent your views to ministers. And they do take a great deal of notice of ‘background noise’ – what issues are currently of concern to their constituents. So we suggest using this website to let your MP know that the future of the British Grand Prix is important to you and to ask that he or she makes sure sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe is aware of that fact too. Keep it brief and polite. You might want to mention the importance of motorsport jobs to the British economy, the fact that the race is one of the country’s great sporting events, the development of important safety and eco-friendly technologies such as enhanced brake efficiency, run-flat tyres and KERS, or its potential to promote tourism and regional growth. Don’t fall prey to cynicism, this is undoubtedly worth doing – but we’ll say again, keep it brief and polite."

The more people who do this, the more likely we are to be able to influence the people who are making the decisions, so if you feel strongly about retaining one of the key dates in the British sporting calendar, please take a few minutes to complete these five steps - and if you can think of anything else useful, that's what the comments are for....

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