MAY 10, 2004

The GPWC lives on

The members of the GPWC met in Barcelona on Sunday morning and although there is little indication about what was said in the meeting it was decided that a message would be whispered in the right ears that the organization was still alive and that it is still in the process of negotiating with the same aims as before the recent falling-out with Formula One Management over the celebrated Memorandum of Understanding. The meeting was not a response to the recent events in Monaco but had been planned for some time but, it seems, that there was no representation in Barcelona from Ferrari, which would seem to back up the belief that the Italian team has done a commercial deal with FOM and is no longer playing the GPWC game.

Ecclestone said at Imola that the Memorandum of Understanding fell apart because the GPWC was not willing to commit to a long term deal, something which he believes is essential for the future stability of the sport. Having Ferrari on his side is an important coup because, as he himself says, Ferrari is "F1's biggest brand". Ecclestone's unstated policy now appears to be to make a commercial deal with each team individually for a period of 10 years, using a war chest of $670m he has available to lure teams into a new 10-year deal, extending to the end of 2014. The GPWC players are not keen on that idea and say that they intend to stick together and try to negotiate a deal which looks after everyone. FOM owns the commercial rights to the sport but it does not control rights which belong to the teams and it is possible that the GPWC may now try to find ways to work together to generate money which can be paid into the F1 pot from areas which are currently left underdeveloped, without treading on the toes of FOM. This would mean more money for everyone.

There are, it seems, many ideas being tossed around at the moment and while the GPWC would probably need to change its name and weaken its direct links with the manufacturers, there is almost certainly a place for a commercial union of the big players, backed by venture capital, to financially exploit areas of the sport which FOM does not control. It might be, for example, that there is a certain amount of logic in a new company taking over a lot of the work that is currently being done by Allsport Management, perhaps the GPWC might even buy Patrick McNally's company, which is very profitable despite having to pay FOM a very large fee for the rights which are sub-contracetd from FOM. There is value in the company in that Allsport not only has contracts with circuits which run for many years to come but also has people and hardware to do the job. Allsport boss Patrick McNally makes no secret of the fact that he would sell the company if the price is right.

Rather than fighting one another, therefore, it could be that a much-modified GPWC might actually end up being a partner of FOM in building up Formula 1 as a sport and as a business.

And wouldn't that be a good idea.