The June issue of F1 Racing magazine reports that if Formula 1 was a country it would be the world’s fourth largest economy, behind the USA, Japan and China and leaving the UK 7th (using IMF 2009 data). The Formula One economy was worth a staggering $3.787 Trillion in 2009.
But doesn’t all that wealth suggest that in place of meriting Government support, motor sport has the means to look after itself?
Only if we believe the IOC should build its own Olympic Stadia and FIFA should build its own World Cup arenas.
Formula One is a global sport which, in terms of value measurement for sponsors, pulls in $4.8 Billion in TV exposure annually. This strength also good news for the UK economy with two-thirds of F1 teams choosing to base themselves in the UK which in turn creates jobs not just in those eight teams but in the technology and engineering companies which support them. This also means a significant percentage of the wealth generated by (for example) sponsorship is benefiting the UK economy.
Formula One is, of course, only a small part of motor sport. The important figure is the value to the British economy of all motor sport not just F1. In 2009 that was estimated to be worth £4 Billion ($5.8 Billion) to our economy and in 2010 it is estimated that it will exceed £5 Billion ($7.25 Billion).
For many, Britain is seen as the pinnacle in motor sport technology, in engineering excellence, in performance delivery and in much, much more. And yet, Government continues to fund under achieving sports which bring little to the national economy or even to our national self worth.
During 2009 while hundreds of millions were being promised to the 2012 Olympics and further millions were being given to sports of varying national benefit, the Government could not find one single pound to keep the British Grand Prix alive.
Fortunately, after the debacle of Donington’s failed bid and subsequent administration, Silverstone secured a long term deal to host the British Grand Prix which, on its own generates in excess of £6 million annually to the local economy and twice that for the national economy.
Having secured the British Grand Prix’ future and its annual benefit to the UK’s economy, Silverstone now has to cover its own rebuilding and development programme while less than 100 miles away hundreds of millions are spent on a one time only event. A few miles in the other direction, Donington Park has just secured a new leaseholder who will be required to dig deep in their own pocket in order to bring the historic circuit back to a useable condition before any racing can resume. At grass roots level, a few quid from the Government would certainly not go amiss in helping bring the facilities at some circuits up to modern, acceptable standards as well as training marshals and the next generation of technological geniuses for whom Mercedes, Renault and other overseas owned F1 teams choose to make the UK their home.
British Motor Sport has found a way and will continue to find a way without Government support. But we came very close to losing the British Grand Prix for the sake of a relatively small Government investment. One can only guess at how much of a sport that bases itself here might have moved overseas had the Grand Prix been lost with the resulting damage to our already fragile economy.
The Government backs other sports, many of which consistently fail to hit targets and continue to underperform. UK Athletics has done so to the tune of £200 Million over the last ten years. British Motor Sport is at the very top of the world order; the Government should support it in staying there by investing in it in the same way it invests in other, far less worthy sports.
© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited 2010