Williams chairman Adam Parr fears F1 TV deal could be 'difficult'

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The Independent Online

Williams chairman Adam Parr has offered his sympathies to Formula One fans following today's announcement that from next season Sky Sports will screen every race live.

It is the first time in F1 history a certain number of grands prix will not be shown on free-to-air television in the United Kingdom.

There had been speculation the BBC would pull out of F1 altogether for financial reasons, but under a new agreement they will now show only half of the races and qualifying live.

Sky will double up on the races shown by the BBC, and also screen the others exclusively live.

The BBC, however, will still show the Monaco and British Grands Prix, as well as the final race of the campaign, with those not live available via a highlights package.

Under the current Concorde Agreement, the commercial arrangement that binds together the teams, commercial rights holders CVC and motor sport's world governing body the FIA, a clause stipulates F1 must be free to air.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone will no doubt argue he has not broken such a contract as half of the races will be exactly that.

For the teams, who have their sponsors to consider as well as the fans, the "devil is in the detail" according to Parr.

He told Press Association Sport: "In principle I have no issue with optimising the balance between the revenues we need and getting a good reach in the audience.

"Without knowing the details you cannot comment on whether it is good or bad.

"What I do know is Bernie is a very passionate believer in getting the broadest audience possible and I think he has almost certainly done this in order to do that.

"Of course, I am sympathetic to the fans. I understand it will be difficult, but English Premier League fans have had that for a while haven't they?

"As for sponsors, I think we will find we still have a tremendous reach.

"If you look at the Premier League and the value of a shirt deal for one of the top teams, those rates are absolutely comparable with what we are getting in F1, or maybe better."

For Parr, it is a question of the financial package being right for the teams given the cost of simply putting a car on the grid.

"People have to bear in mind what it costs to put on this show," added Parr.

"For us to design and build the two cars we will have on the grid on Sunday (for the Hungarian Grand Prix), without putting an engine in, without a driver, without accounting for the 70 staff we bring to each race, costs £2million.

"It is not two blokes with a tennis racket and a pair of trainers with zero cost. It is a very, very expensive sport.

"The best thing we can do for fans, whether they want to come to the races or want to watch it on TV, is to reduce the cost of the sport without spoiling the show."

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes there should be no knee-jerk reaction to the news until Ecclestone has explained his reasoning and the details.

"I don't think anyone should be immediately reacting to say this is good, bad, indifferent," Whitmarsh told Press Association Sport.

"What we need to understand is whether the large audience we currently enjoy in Formula One will be maintained.

"I think we also need to understand exactly how this is being done.

"I think the means by which media is available today is much more complex than the old model in which there was free-to-air and then pay-per-view.

"In fairness to Bernie, on this particular occasion, it is very difficult, I imagine, when you are negotiating these deals.

"But we've got a range of safeguards within Concorde, and the right thing to do is to explore how the Formula One coverage is going to be dealt with in the future, and take a view from there."