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Formula Two team boss Trevor Carlin has said regarding he and his race team “We’re here ready to go” following announcements from the Formula One commercial right holders Liberty Media (Which includes both Formula Two and Formula Three) if and when it is safe to do so.

The sporting world despite its tribalism and millions of fans has taken a back seat while the globe tries to contain the spread of COVID-19. It has been a stark reminder to us all that when it comes to sport and leisure that the safety and security of its participants and ourselves comes first, as it should.

The Formula Two owner was asked about the proposed schedule that may come into effect following on from F1’s public statement on the 27th April. The statement issued to fans worldwide came following the cancellation of the French Grand Prix in June. This adds to a larger list of now-cancelled races as we embark on what would be the European race calendar. 

Chase Carey, CEO of the Formula One group said, “We’re targeting a start to racing in Europe through July, August and the beginning of September, With the first race taking place in Austria on 3-5 July” and needless to say what we all would expect given the situation that “We expect the early races to be without fans”

With this news from the Formula One group come questions regarding both Formula Two and Formula Three’s feasibility if the race weekends needed to be streamlined for safety, logically and even financially.

Carlin told Reuters (London), “What I heard is this Red Bull Ring double-header, Silverstone double-header plan and they would try to incorporate F2 and F3 into that,”

The rationale for sport in general to return is a contentious one, with comments from First Secretary of State Dominic Raab here in the UK being that professional sport may be able to return soon a the “scale of testing that they would be able to introduce.”, could prove the key point. 

This was backed by former sports minister Richard Caborn who told The Yorkshire Post, “Anything to get safe, live sport back on the television would have a huge effect on the nation. It really would provide a big boost to morale and would show we are moving into a new phase” 

When Caborn was in office he brokered a deal with Sky Television to give rights to ITV back in 2004 following a ban on travelling fans to an England football international game vs Turkey. His feelings when we start to show sport again has that same mindset “I think the television companies ought to be looking at putting it on free to air. I hope they would play their role.”

The is a moral argument at play here as organisations would push for a speedy return to sporting activities; that pressure would come in the form of commercial obligations. 

This does pose the more serious question to sporting organisations; would we putting safety behind finances as all businesses and nations verge on what the International Monetary Fund warns could be the sharpest downturn economically since the Great Depression during the 1930s.

Why would we even consider a return at all?

Supporters of a return would argue that sport has a unique place in society and having its return in any form would be a forward step for populations around the world as they watched normality resume in some small degree. Caborn states in his interview’ “I think you’re looking at all sports that can be televised for the nation’s entertainment and psychology.”

Cynics, however, would argue the only reason to return and put commercial sports back online would be one of greed to fulfil a contractual obligation. This would be breaking social distancing rules in most cases for athletes and teams. 

Caborn does argue both points of view stating, “You won’t be able to have social distancing, but if you can check at 2 pm before a 3 pm kick-off” as he discusses testing for people involved in the example of a football match, “that should be enough, and the technology is there to do that.” But remaining cautious “We could only do it with the scientific and medical officers giving their clearance, but I think the upside would be massive.”

There is an argument here looking at both points, realistically there may be a grey area in-between which does allow economies to start moving again in various forms which would break social distancing rule’s currently set for the general population when the time is right. 

As with the pressure to get through the current lockdown economically around the world, we do have to consider that businesses need to first and foremost survive and to do this a controlled and phased return to operations is key across all industries such as sporting organisations. 

Considering how many sports organisations like racing teams operate in its simplest form, there are three main income streams for sports such as motorsport: broadcasting (sales of media rights), commercial (sponsorship and advertising partnerships) and race day revenue (ticketing and hospitality).

Although this is a massive consideration for Formula One and Liberty for the overall business model which owns the other series this isn’t such a case for actual Formula Two and Three teams said Carlin; “from a sponsors’ point of view, it’s not quite so crucial.”

Formula Two and Three get very little for participating beyond prize money with for the winners. Many of the other costs such as engines, tyres, fuel and even the catering are provided while teams are funded by sponsors and drivers.

So the real impact financially would be in losing or breaching sponsorship obligations for both the wider group and the teams in all formula. 

The Carlin Motorsport team in the UK has furloughed staff to manage costs but anything longer than the current temporary shutdown would see the teams and businesses around the sport unable to meet their commitments. 

This outcome would have a huge impact on the industry; no races means no TV money, which also leads to lost sponsorship income. That would then be catastrophic for teams with almost no income at all.

“If it goes on for another six months or a year, then we’ll be in trouble. But if it’s only another two or three months and people want to race, we’re here ready to go,” Carlin said.

What do you think? Should we harness the unique social power of sport and entertainment when it could be argued people need positive entertainment the most? Or are we best to hold back on any type of action no matter how controlled the environment is for the overall safety of the globe’s population?

Let us know on Twitter @F2inside or below the line in the comments. 

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Image Credit: World Copyright: Alastair Staley/GP3 Series Media Service.

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