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F1 promoter group hits out at Liberty Media

Formula One’s owner, US mass-media company Liberty Media, is facing up to the prospect of a potential rebellion after a group representing the promoters of the motor-racing series said the majority of its members are concerned at how the sport is being run.

The Formula One Promoters’ Association (FOPA) issued a statement after representatives of 16 grands prix gathered in London to discuss F1’s future direction ahead of the start of the 21-race 2019 season in Melbourne, Australia in March.

The Concorde Agreement, the document which currently binds F1’s teams and stakeholders together, is scheduled to expire at the end of the 2020 season and the sport’s stakeholders are said to be concerned at the progress in talks over a potential new agreement. FOPA has also specifically cited its concern over the growing trend for Liberty to favour pay-television broadcast deals that sideline free-to-air coverage for F1.

“It is not in the long term interest of the sport that fans lose free access to content and broadcasting,” FOPA said in a statement. “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.”

FOPA said its members are seeking “a more collaborative approach” as well as “the opportunity to offer their experience and expertise in a spirit of partnership with Formula One and the (governing body of motorsport) FIA”.

While the FOPA statement did not name the 16 promoters that are concerned over Liberty’s strategy, the Forbes website, citing one of the race organisers at the meeting, said Baku, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Russia and Bahrain have formed their own partnership.

FOPA’s chairman is Stuart Pringle, managing director of Britain’s Silverstone circuit. Silverstone’s British Grand Prix is a historic part of Formula One, but is one of five circuits whose race contract expires following the 2019 season, along with Germany’s Hockenheim, Monza in Italy, Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya and Mexico City.

Pringle told UK newspaper the Daily Mail of FOPA’s dissatisfaction, especially when it comes to the terms of race contracts being signed by Liberty. Pringle said: “Everyone is disgruntled. Liberty’s ideas are disjointed. We have all been compliant and quiet hitherto but we have great concerns about the future health of the sport under the people who run it now.”

Pringle said the mooted deal for a second US race in Miami is of particular concern. He added: “Miami are seemingly getting a free deal. That has not gone down well with anyone, not least with the guys at Austin, Texas, who are working hard to make their race pay. If this continues, Formula One will be racing on second-rate circuits, if any at all.”