RICHARDS says a more internet-based approach is vital to take the WRC forward.“The strategy I was ready to pursue 10 years ago was to really drive the internet,” Richards told MN. “Convention says for a promoter that you produce a television show which is very expensive to make in TV quality terms. You try to fund this by rights fees from different television stations around the world. Those rights fees are diminishing all the time and the upshot of that is that you get less people watching, meaning less commercial value, which then hits the value for the promoter, the teams, the organisers. Everybody gets hit.
“If you go the other way around and aim to become the dominant motorsport on the internet, then all you have to do is transfer all these spectators – sometimes a million people on an event – into people who watch it on the internet.
“What you would then have is tens of millions of people watching on the internet, giving value; you commercialise it that way around. Then you do free-of-charge news coverage giving two-minute clips focusing on national interest stories: Sebastien Ogier to French channels or German channels get Volkswagen coverage.”
Richards added that manufacturers had to take their share of the blame for the obsession with television.
“The sport has been carrying on blindly down a route,” he said. “The world has changed and we’ve got to change our way of thinking. This talk about the changes to the final day of WRC rounds is not necessary. People are still focused on trying to attract a television audience which, probably, is unachievable. Why don’t we go back to the roots? Get the product right and try it in a different way.
“You do also have to blame the manufacturers for pushing television. They have a very narrow focus because their bosses want to see it on television and I’m afraid this is unrealistic. Sometimes you have to say that, you have to say: “This is pushing water uphill. What are the alternatives?” And then you have to be bold about that.”
By: Giles Wade