Catering for television can cost a sport dearly
For the second consecutive weekend, a major motorsport event was halted due to freak storms. Both the Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Qatar MotoGP couldn’t continue in the circumstances.
But as they were twilight and night races respectively, to better cater for television, there was no more room for manoeuvrability.
Motorsport has embraced the twilight-night racing concept so it can better cater for television audiences.
For example, MotoGP and Formula 1 moving certain Asian and Middle Eastern races into later time-slots so they can be beamed into Europe at a better hour, thus getting better ratings, thus better advertising dollars for the broadcasters, thus more money in the pockets of the sports powers that be.
But at what price to the sports image, let alone the fans that make the trek to such races? The problem is, in such scenarios, there is little wiggle room.
In the Malaysian example, as the paddock waited for the storm to pass, darkness descended.
Despite knowing of Malaysia’s tropical weather, in which late evening storms are a common occurrence, the sport committed to the 5pm start time and showed little remorse to the paying spectators who saw half a race.
Even if the race had started at its regular afternoon slot as the storm hit, there would have been the time to wait and see. As it was, there was no hope of a restart.
Night racing runs an even bigger risk.
Any rain, as seen in the Qatar MotoGP race, drastically reduces visibility with the glare it creates under the lights and from the wet ground.
It was a sad way for the MotoGP season to begin and took away much of the spectacle of the event.
How ironic in a season in which cost cutting is necessary that the race delay caused by being at night has cost the teams a huge amount in changing their flights, freight services and an extra nights stay in their hotels.
And let’s not forget the fans at the track. Such races and categories are gambling.
Sure, motorsport has been unlucky. Who would expect rain in the desert of Qatar and what are the odds that with an average of just eight rainy days a year, such a storm would hit just as the MotoGP bikes were lining up for their season opener?
But there is a lesson here for all sports.
Don’t gamble with nature, as it has a way of biting back when toyed with.
In Melbourne during the Australian Grand Prix, many fans, and drivers, complained that with the 5pm race start time, the setting sun was impeding their sight.
At last season’s A-League match between Adelaide United and Sydney FC, the setting sun impeded the view of at the least half of the ground for a good half hour.
While the priority tends to be on television schedules, sports should never lose sight of the basics: don’t gamble with mother nature and don’t take the fans in the stands for granted.
Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.