WHAT do you make of the news that Supercars, through a clause in their contract with the promoter, have apparently blocked TCR Australia’s bid to join the Adelaide 500 program next year?
Ever since TCR Australia was announced there have been concerns that Supercars would do their very best to try and stop it from encroaching on their turf as the preeminent Touring Car category in the region.
So naturally the fact that they have apparently exercised their power of veto over the Adelaide support program commenced a raft of stories from local media talking up the prospect of a new Touring Car war between the pair.
It’s a great story for the working media – guaranteed to generate website traffic and social media debate – If probably more dramatic than it actually is.
Still, there are a couple of problems with these recent events worth discussing.
For the record, I don’t actually think they are out to quash TCR; They’ve got bigger issues to solve than worrying about a three round old category with a comparatively tiny footprint in the marketplace.
What’s more, I can’t for the life of me think why Supercars would even see them as a threat in the first place.
TCR may have big backers, more potential brands and big ambitions, but at the moment I’d argue they need Supercars more than Supercars need them. While much has been said about positive crowds at TCRs stand-alone events, they still pale in contrast to even the smallest Supercar round.
And while the TCR TV deal has been praised, mainly because it’s on free-to-air, more people watch Supercars on FOX Sports subscription service than they do on SBSs coverage and live stream, combined.
Supercars generate income to the tune of more than $200m from their TV arrangements. TCR pay for theirs.
Supercars are paid by promoters to go to their tracks. TCR pay to secure a headline slot on the CAMS-owned Shannons Nationals tour. And so it goes.
These are not slights against TCR – it is, after all, the categories’ first year – merely the facts of the situation.
TCR trying to join the Adelaide 500 program (and this week confirming their place on the Grand Prix support card, too) is the sign of a new series trying to get a piggyback off the big show. As any series would wish to do so.
In fact, at this point in the discussion I’d argue that Supercars need TCR as well.
Their own support program has been on the thin side this year and they could use another strong, well-run and visible category to bolster the program at key events. What’s more, it would be a smart way to engage the brands potentially involved in TCR that are unlikely to ever go Supercar racing.
The other factor here is that if TCR appear on the Supercar show, they would have to do it by Supercars rules.
Like any other support category, They’d have to pay Supercars for the TV, they’d have to run their program to Supercars scheduling demands, plus dealing with not being in the pit lane garages or having free reign with track signage, commercial opportunities and so on.
This would give Supercars an element of control over the TCR product so if I was concerned about a potential rival and wanted to make sure I maintained a watchful eye over their progress, that would be the way to do it.
As for why TCR would give up all the freedom they currently enjoy by doing their own thing? Love them or hate them, there’s nothing bigger in the sport in this part of the world than Supercars.
To be noticed – properly noticed – you simply must be on that show.
The bottom line is that in the end, this doesn’t help anyone.
Supercars look like the big bullies, scared of a potential rival muscling in on their turf. It’s not a great look in a year where the series has been battered with parity arguments all year long.
The Adelaide 500 miss out on a support category that would have added to their program and potentially drawn commercial backing to an event that requires it to continue to justify their ongoing government backing.
TCR are denied an opportunity to grow and their teams and partners a place at the biggest domestic event in Australia, which would have helped grow the series.
Of course the main reason behind all of this is, frankly, business. These decisions aren’t being taken because of an inherent desire or want to build the sport – it’s because the sport has been allowed to get to a point where so many categories are arguing over a small piece of the available commercial pie and at times it really does feel like everyone for themselves.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that Supercars and TCR running together – if only for a few rounds a year – makes sense for everyone involved.
It especially makes sense for the sport as a whole.
But when have decisions made in this sport ever, really, made sense for the health of the sport overall? That, I think, is the real issue here. And it’s one unlikely to be resolved.