Eurosport in WRC driving seat?
It’s been an interesting week for the World Rally Championship. Last Friday the FIA served notice to terminate its contract with the WRC’s promoter and global rights holder, North One Sport, and internet speculation since has Eurosport not only taking over broadcast duties for next week’s Monte Carlo Rally, but in fact inking a deal to cover the WRC for the next three years. This side of the weekend at least, however, the broadcaster is issuing a firm no comment as a spokesman says that contract negotiations are ongoing.
Whatever happens in the future, producing TV and internet coverage from the rally next week presents a huge challenge for whoever picks up the contract. Eurosport has covered the event for the last three years when it ran it as part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge series – ironically set up by the broadcaster as a ‘rights-free’ competitor to the WRC – but it would still have to compress the planning stages for coverage this year into days rather than months, a challenge no matter the level of experience involved. And, according to North One Television CEO, Neil Duncanson, speaking to autosport.com, there are even potential employment law issues surrounding the transfer over of production staff
It’s a bit of a scramble all round really, with the event organiser, The Automobile Club de Monaco, also having to rearrange the timing and tracking component of holding the event which had been subcontracted to Stage One Technology via North One. And while Autosport for one is reporting that the organisation has inked a contract with Eurosport, the broadcaster itself sticks firmly to the no comment response, saying that everything else is smoke and mirrors and will remain so for the next few days.
And below, for the record, is the FIA’s original statement which puts all this in some context:
Last Friday the FIA served notice to terminate its contract with North One Sport, the Promoter of the FIA World Rally Championship. The FIA sought urgent unequivocal assurances from NOS that it could fulfil its contractual obligations and deliver the promotion of the upcoming Rally Monte Carlo and the Championship for 2012 and for the future. It is with regret and disappointment that no such assurance has been given to the FIA, and therefore today the FIA has been driven to terminate its contract with NOS. NOS has conspicuously failed to deliver its contractual obligations and is in fundamental breach of contract.
Following the recent unforeseen circumstances which led to Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI) the parent company being placed into administration in November 2011 [main backer, Vladimir Antonov, was arrested on fraud charges – Ed] the FIA has fully supported and co-operated with both NOS and the administrators of the parent company CSI in their efforts to secure a purchaser. Contrary to press speculation however, no firm offer to purchase NOS has been presented to the FIA during this period but only numerous non-binding expressions of interest subject to due diligence.
The FIA has been notified of at least 7 expressions of interest, but none have come to fruition. The FIA has given time and support to all the parties concerned to find the right solutions. Regrettably however, not only has NOS failed to perform in accordance with its contract, it has also been unable to secure the essential investment required to enable it to deliver the Championship.
This has placed the FIA in an unprecedented situation just 10 days before Rally Monte Carlo in that the FIA will now have to take urgent action to secure the staging of the Championship. The Fédération is now working tirelessly to ensure the WRC goes ahead as fully as planned to mitigate the consequences of the breach of NOS.
At the start of the 2012 season, the FIA wishes to take this opportunity to reassure all its stakeholders – the Automobile Club de Monaco and Rally Monte Carlo which makes a welcome return as the opening round of the Championship, the other vital commercial partners, Rally Organisers, the Manufacturers and Teams, and the vast loyal worldwide fan base – of its full on-going commitment to the World Rally Championship and its determination to see 2012 take place as planned.
The FIA has now launched urgent top level discussions with several partners and suppliers to guarantee the key organisational and promotional components of the Championships, including timing and tracking, TV production and distribution, as well as sponsorship servicing are put in place.
The FIA is fully confident that it will deliver a safe, successful and exciting 2012 season, adding that in the current context, and while there are still on-going discussions, it would not be appropriate for the Fédération to discuss these matters publicly until a final solution has been reached.