Is the recent Cardiff GP 2009 Advert Misleading?

An incredible four days after the 2008 Cardiff GP ended, the organisers are so desperate to further swell their coffers that they’re already trying to put their grasping hands inside the British speedway fans less than bulging pockets with a so called ‘special offer’ for next years event! Not yet migrated to the seemingly endless back page advert in the magazine, this marvellous opportunity drew itself to my attention through an advert in the Speedway Star (dated July 5 2008). If adverts for Christmas get earlier each year, then they really have nothing on the GP organisers deeming 361 days to be sufficient advance notice. Possibly, you may have rushed to the phone (or onto the internet) to take advantage of the widely advertised “BOOK EARLY and get up to 10% OFF! * Book before 1st September 2008” special offer for the 2009 Cardiff Grand Prix.

However, they say that all that glitters is not gold and, sadly, once again like with the organisers 2008 ‘special offer” on closer examination things aren’t so special and, like many other claims regarding this event, also aren’t so accurate. Apart from the headline news of the new ‘cheaper’ ticket price band of £29 – an initiative which makes a virtue of the real difficulty of trying to get rid of the ongoing year in, year out problem of the huge number of unsold seats in the upper echelons of the Millenium Stadium – the sad fact is that practically all the proper ticket prices for 2009 will be more expensive than 2008. Never afraid to milk the cash cow of the Cardiff speedway fans with ticket and programme price increases (or, this year, with a ‘safety’ campaign with non-flammable air horns), the organisers have increased prices by between 2.5% and 3.5% with the exception of zero price inflation for the £70 ticket.

Predictably, the “up to 10% OFF!” claims of the advert mask a more complex picture where pre-September 1 2008 savings vary from an incredible 0% through to a higher than claimed (in the advert copy) 13.3%. Judged by their own previous standards, we should be told this in a shouty typeface.

Administration doesn’t appear a strong point with the organisers if judged on the fact that the online order link doesn’t appear to work (as of July 17th) on their own website. This only leaves the option of paying through the nose by calling a premium rate 0871 number that earns them more money or pretending to live outside the UK and ringing (01159) 934126. Also don’t get caught out like I did last year when I booked early as this transaction subsequently bizarrely appeared on my credit card statement as “air phone” (what the goodness is that?!) and I mistakenly cancelled it as a rogue billing, thereby losing my early bird ‘discount’.

The cheapskateness (or maladministration?) of failing to have ticket sales appear sensibly on credit card statements from day 1 is nothing compared to the ongoing miserly payments to the notional stars of the show (if we ignore claims on Sky satellite television that it’s really the wondrousness of the crowd) – the riders themselves. Whatever, the real or claimed attendance levels, the 2008 Cardiff GP will probably have grossed millions for the organisers (nowadays owned by a multinational company whose international sports marketing expertise we have yet to really witness) that will fail to find its way back into British Speedway (let alone the grassroots of the sport in this country) or the riders pockets. The publicly available order of merit (based on points gained from the five GP’s of the 2008 series so far) – that unfortunately still doesn’t list the traditional top three earners of Postlethwaite, Bellamy and Olsen – allows us to calculate what the riders have been paid. Based on a variable pound-dollar exchange rate (of $1.86-$1.90 to the pound), the figures supplied by Charles McKay show total YTD earnings and the average per GP for each rider*:
N. Pedersen £19759 (or £3951 per GP)
T. Gollob £19178 (£3835)
J. Crump £17883 (£3576)
G. Hancock £15868 (£3173)
L. Adams £14996 (£2999)
H. Anderson £13796 (£2759)
R. Holta £13500 (£2700)
A. Jonsson £12939 (£2587)
F. Lindgren £12044 (£2408)
S. Nicholls £10950 (£2190)
N.K. Iversen £10127 (£2025)
L. Dryml £9969 (£1993)
C. Harris £7688 (£1922)
K. Kasprzak £7555 (£1888)
B. Pedersen £6640 (£2213)
L. Tomicek £3732 (£1866)

The only winners again, here, are the organisers (particularly if you assume all events with the possible exception of the one in Germany) makes a profit from the combination of admissions revenues, advertising sales and sponsorships along with the all important television rights sales.

Though clearly for the lucky four riders who randomly find themselves in the lucrative Super Prix race in Gelsenkirchen, when looked at in the context of the rather pitiful actual monies paid, the danger to their career and season earnings that the condition of the Cardiff track presented to the health of the GP riders seems not worth the risk. Ignoring that the riders also have questions to answer about their participation, one of the real problems facing British Speedway is how (on an ongoing basis) the staging of the GP’s emasculates certain Elite League teams and, thereby, the Elite League itself as well as the credibility of some fixtures to the long-term detriment of the sport in this country.

No matter what pride and satisfaction that can be taken from the staging day itself – the quality of the racing isn’t always the best, after all – surely the question remains can British Speedway survive on a long term basis if it doesn’t lance the boil of the true impact of the GP series upon the sport in this country? As many have noted, a more meaningful accommodation with the GP series remains urgently required.

(Quite what this is or will be has yet to be decided though some far from disinterested ‘leading’ speedway figures have suggested the need to switch to fixed mid week race nights for Elite League racing. Strangely, often those making these suggestions already run and enjoy the happy convenience of staging their weekly meetings in mid-week. Such suggestions would have greater authority as truly being founded on the future best interests of the sport if these suggestions were for the days each week that really would maximise attendances – namely Friday and Saturday!)

*With thanks to Charles McKay for his diligence and calculations.

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