An already short AMA Pro Racing season lost another round after the AMA and the Virginia International Raceway couldn’t come to terms a month before the scheduled 8th round of the 2011 racing season. The late cancellation doesn’t say much for the state of road racing in America, but who’s to blame?
The AMA says that it did everything in its power to make sure that the VIR event went off as scheduled. Of course, VIR says pretty much the exact same thing. So with no one taking responsibility, let’s start pointing fingers.
These are the people that are to blame for the cancellation of VIR
VIR – John Ulrich writes at Road Racing World how the “greed and sloth” of the people at VIR caused the demise of round 8. VIR assumed all marketing and promotional responsibilities from M1 in 2010, and they haven’t made any money since. It looked like VIR was going to lose a big chunk of change again in 2011, so they decided to cut their losses and ditch the event.
AMA – According to David Atlas, CEO of AMA Pro Racing, the AMA and VIR had agreed on terms in December. The phone call that he received on Thursday, June 23, from VIR cancelling the round, came as a complete “shock.” I really hope that that’s true, but I find it hard to believe. VIR actually filed a lawsuit against the AMA (although they never officially served the AMA with the lawsuit) over the cancellation of the round.
According to the lawsuit, the AMA and VIR had a letter of intent to work together in 2011, but no contract. The AMA didn’t send the contract until June 2nd, 2011. When VIR didn’t agree with the terms, they tried to work things out, but no agreement could be made. (Of course this could be taken in another way. VIR bluffed big and decided to put out a “warning lawsuit.” But since a contract did actually exist, as Ulrich argues here, the finger pointing has to go back to #1.)
But contract or no, the AMA has to take some responsibility for this debacle. The AMA Pro Racing series was already a short 9 round series with VIR in place. The AMA was trying to stir up interest in 10th round, but instead, we’ll have to settle for an 8 round series for the first time since 1990.
The Fans – The AMA and VIR will argue over who’s to blame, but there is a bigger problem at hand. AMA Pro Road Racing just doesn’t bring in the fans. Without fans there is no money. Without money there is no racing.
People argue that the AMA has gone down hill in recent years, but most of those people probably haven’t watched any of the AMA races this year. We have three series that are going to come down to the final race in order to decide the championship. There have been last lap passes, riders taking wins by less than .1 seconds, big crashes, new records, and historic moments as brands like KTM reinvest into the sport.
Fans, or rather, people who used to be fans of the AMA, need to give American racing another shot.
SpeedTV – SpeedTV has the rights to all television broadcasts of AMA Pro Road Racing, and they do broadcast just about all the races. At midnight.
Now, Speed is in a difficult position. Would you give a primetime spot to a sport that doesn’t have an audience? But I don’ think that’s the right way to look at the problem. The fact of the matter is that the sport doesn’t have an audience because there is no coverage.
Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz didn’t allow for home games to be televised, believing that if people could watch the game on TV they would never pay for tickets at the stadium. Well, it didn’t exactly work out that way. The Hawks didn’t have anyone showing up to the games. They didn’t have anyone watching at home. So basically, they didn’t have any fans. In 2004, the Blackhawks were named the worst franchise in pro sports by ESPN.
But that all changed when Wirtz’ son Rocky took over. The Blackhawks were back on TV and fans started regaining their interest in hockey. They started showing up to games, and with more fans, Wirtz put more money back into the team. Eventually Chicago transformed back into a hockey city, and the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
I might be over simplifying a little bit, but the point is that starving the fans of racing content won’t make them hungrier for motorcycle racing, it will just drive them somewhere else to get their racing fill…. like NASCAR. Yuck.
Budget, Branding, and Business – Ed Kuhlenkamp, at Motorcycle USA gives a few reasons as to why AMA racing isn’t bringing in the crowds. Motorcycle racing is a costly sport, and the AMA doesn’t have the budget to fix all of its problems all at once. Most of the teams on the grid are also struggling to get from one race to the next. Jake Holden, for instance, has a sign out during every fan walk asking for donations to his racing efforts.
The state of AMA Pro Racing looks pretty dismal at the moment, which is really a shame, especially since the racers put so much into each and every race.
If there is one group of people that can not be faulted for the VIR cancellation, it’s the guys that push their bikes to the limit at every event. Not only are these guys risking life and limb on the track, but at every event this year they’ve sat down in the pits to shake hands, sign autographs, and take pictures with the fans.
The racers do not deserve an 8 round series. They do not deserve the supposed “greed and sloth” that brought us here. They do not deserve the midnight showings or the lack of fan interest.
The racers deserve a lot more. Hopefully they get it in 2012.
Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com