Op-Ed: Malaysia to woo fans with cheap tickets

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I was reading Kevin Eason’s story at the Times this morning and found it, as many of his articles, an enjoyable read. Mr. Eason was describing his view of the Malaysian GP from an economic position as far as attendance goes.

It was announced today that the organizers of the Malaysian Grand Prix will consider lowering ticket prices for next years event in the hopes of increasing attendance. According to the Times of India, the race garnered 98,000 people.

That’s a fair piece better than Turkey’s, what…35,000 last year? The bigger question may be, is it enough. According to Eason, the issue for many of the indigenous folks in Malaysia is the price. He was citing a quaint and sticky taxi cab ride to the circuit as a prime example and I, for one, believe him.

When the governments of these emerging markets and Asian countries seek to crawl from dark anonymity to the bright light of the world’s center stage; they have chosen F1 as a method of doing so. It adds legitimacy and instant press coverage.

As Eason points out, these palaces of speed are immaculate and no expense is spared in their construction. So too is there no expense spared in giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

The emperor of F1, Bernie Ecclestone has become quite adept at extracting massive sums from emerging market kings, queens and premier’s and shows no sign of slowing down. The price tag for hosting an F1 race is millions of dollars and the facilities, most designed by Ecclestone’s confidant Herman Tilke, can cost hundreds of millions to build.

As Eason eludes to and I will posit here; emerging markets or small Asian governments that can gather the money to present a cosmopolitan image to the world is fine and that notion may be affordable for local royalty but the population in these markets are often times people of lesser means than the royalty that governs them. Not all but a majority of the indigenous folks find the price for a weekend pass very expensive.

The expense of a grand prix weekend is preventative to attendance and while these governments have created multi-million dollar palaces of speed, their constituency can’t always afford to attend the races. Turkey’s lack of attendance was blamed for this very scenario.

So what does this mean for F1’s new frontier? The Asian markets that are clamoring to join the esoteric world of F1 and raise their global image by showing the world they too can host an international event without too much bother and by doing such, they are a burgeoning member of the global community.

Ecclestone has announced that Europe may lose more races in order to keep the total number at 19 and bring the US and Russia to the table on hosting a Grand Prix. A shame that some of the best, most historic tracks should be considered for the chopping block when circuits like Turkey, China and Malaysia are struggling to fill seats.

BTW, nice work Mr. Eason.

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