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New motor racing series hopes to score with football fans

April 03, 2007 16:51 IST
A new motor racing series combining fast cars and football could bring in extra millions for clubs like AC Milan and Barcelona if it kicks off as planned next year.

'Superleague Formula' organisers went public with their plans on Tuesday, proposing an initial six race season from August 2008 with some 20 single-seater cars competing in the colours of leading football clubs.

They aim to expand eventually to a maximum of 17 races, mostly in Europe and at circuits familiar to followers of Formula One and MotoGP.

Four clubs -- European football giants AC Milan, Porto, PSV Eindhoven and Greece's Olympiakos -- have signed up already to a project that offers them revenue through licensing agreements, sponsorship and TV rights.

"An average top club could raise between 14 to 18 million euros in the five years of the contract that we are aiming for," Spanish sports marketing specialist Alex Andreu, who has developed the idea with Briton Robin Webb, told Reuters.

Superleague said others currently in talks included Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Inter Milan, Argentina's Boca Juniors, Brazil's Flamengo, Mexico's America, South Korea's Suwon Bluewings and China's Shanghai Shenhua.

Manchester United and other British clubs have been approached.

Turkey's Galatasaray, Germany's Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund, Gothenburg of Sweden, Belgium's Anderlecht, France's Olympique Marseille and Lyon are also on the list of candidates along with Lokomotiv Moscow.

"We think that by combining these two large sports we could become a real potential big event in the years to come," continued Andreu.

"What motor racing brings is obvious; it's technology, cars, noise, glamour. What football brings is the heart, the passion and the emotions."


The idea is to appeal to a younger, crossover audience who can support their clubs in a different way.

Milan captain Paolo Maldini gave his blessing: "The idea of uniting football fans' passion with motorsport is a winning combination that will definitely have the following of millions of people worldwide," Superleague organisers quoted him as saying.

"We obviously enjoy the chance to play against our major rivals throughout Europe and I am certain our fans will look forward to seeing the PSV Superleague Formula car race against some of these same teams," added PSV coach Ronald Koeman.

There is still some way to go before the idea becomes reality, however.

Webb was also a leading light in a similar project, Premier1, which made plans for a debut in 2002 but failed to get to the starting grid. He said that Superleague Formula should not be seen in the same light.

"This is a new product," he told Reuters.

"They (Premier1) perhaps didn't understand the base that had to be built, but we have. I think that's fundamentally the difference between why this is going to be successful and that didn't get off the starting blocks.

"In terms of sophistication and reality, this is a different league."


Andreu and Webb said their main partners were Spanish businessmen, including the son of former International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Juan Antonio Samaranch, and the Havas Media group.

They expect to make a loss initially, with a profit forecast from year three.

They plan to use 750bhp Elan/Panoz cars built by Elan Motorsport technologies in the United States and with 4.2 litre V12 engines provided by Menard and made at the former Arrows Formula One factory at Leafield in England.

All cars will be identical and there will be two races per event weekend, with the grid for the second reversed from the first to liven up the action.

Organisers say the overall prize purse will be one million euros per weekend and there will also be plenty of off-track entertainment.

"We want to attract families, young people and a female audience, too, and for that you need to have lots of different activities at the circuit," said Andreu.

"We will have an open paddock for all fans, the rear of the garages will be open for viewing by spectators and our teams and drivers will be very focussed on providing access to the paying public."

Alan Baldwin
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