Formula One is commonly claimed to be one of the world’s three biggest sporting spectacles, the other two being the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. For most motor sports followers, Formula One is regarded as the pinnacle.
Yet this hugely popular event does not command a large following in Korea, making it difficult for the organizer of the F1 race in Korea ― the government of South Jeolla Province ― to continue to host it.
Last week, the International Automobile Federation dropped Korea from the 2014 Formula One competition. The main reason was the Korean organizer’s demand for a big cut in its license fee for the 2014 race ― from $43.7 million to $20 million.
The Korean organizer insisted on a massive fee cut as its losses from the annual event had reached an intolerable level. It has thus far suffered more than 190 billion won in operating losses ― 72.5 billion won ($68.3 million) in 2010, 61 billion won in 2011, 38.6 billion won in 2012 and 18 billion won this year.
Park June-yung, the province’s governor, who played a central role in attracting the high-profile sporting event to Korea, said he would seek to bring the F1 race back in 2015. The provincial government has the right to hold the event for seven years, from 2010 to 2016.
Yet to continue to organize the F1 race, the province needs to secure financial support from the central government and win sponsorship from big corporations. But more than anything else, it needs to stage an awareness campaign to introduce the race to more people.
It is not easy to attract Koreans to the F1 race since there is no Korean team to cheer for. But without expanding the fan base, the province will not be able to make the Korean Grand Prix a regular event even after 2016.
Park says F1 is the future of his province. The event has helped South Jeolla emerge as a mecca of motor sports-related business in Korea. It has also given a big boost to the domestic tuning and sports car industries.
In this respect, the Korean Grand Prix is different from other one-time sporting events that leaders of local governments hold to flaunt their achievements.
While exploring ways to make the racing event profitable, the provincial government needs to make steady efforts to expand its fan base.