4 March 2011
Q&A: Simon Long, North One Sport CEO
North One Sport CEO Simon Long answers the questions following confirmation the WRC promoter has been acquired by Convers Sports Initiatives.
What does the CSI deal mean for the WRC?
Security and stability for the promoter, North One Sport, and investment to re-invigorate the sport. It will provide the championship with an all-important boost by accelerating our plans to develop the WRC, leveraging the best elements of the sport's rich history whilst also positioning it for an exciting future as we open it up to new audiences around the world. This new deal will be a catalyst, enabling us to reach our goals far sooner. It's good news for the sport, fans and, critically, partners who can help grow the appeal and viability of the championship.
How much additional investment will CSI bring to North One Sport?
It's impossible to put a precise figure on this because the investment comes in many different forms; from the knowledge and experience of the CSI management team, the benefits of working as part of a wider group of sporting properties to, of course, extra capital. It's fair to say, however, that this package equates to a multi-million pound investment per year, which is unprecedented in the sport.
What immediate changes will there be?
Well, there's going to be no shortage of action or momentum. In the short term, we'll be reinforcing the resources and organisation available to North One Sport so that we are fully equipped to achieve our ambitious plans for WRC and the other sports we represent. We'll also be discussing and refining a joint plan with the main WRC stakeholders, notably the FIA, car manufacturers and rally organisers. North One Sport will retain its name for the moment although we expect to transition to a new name and a new office location in London during the coming months. Over the course of the current season you can expect to see a number of new innovations being unveiled. I can't go any detail right now but it's safe to say they will create a huge buzz when they are launched.
How does this deal affect North One Sport's existing relationship with North One Television?
North One Television has been responsible for producing the World Rally Championship's range of television programming since 2001, when it was awarded the contract by International Sportsworld Communicators (ISC). North One Television subsequently acquired ISC in 2007 - effectively becoming both the commercial rights holder and content provider. North One Television is also the company behind the championship's official website. The CSI acquisition means that North One Television will return to its previous position as a supplier of television and digital content. Our co-operation will be stronger than ever.
Vladimir Antonov is a Saab rally enthusiast and has an investment stake in the company. Does this deal mean Saab will enter the World Rally Championship?
Saab has a long association with rallying and it's no secret that we've had discussions with them about a return to the WRC. But while the deal with CSI means we have a common investor in Vladimir Antonov, it does not signal an automatic return for Saab. So for now we'll continue our discussions with Saab, as we are with a number of other manufacturers. It's my belief, however, that it won't be long before other big brands are following MINI's lead and committing to the World Rally Championship to take on Citroen and Ford who have been instrumental in the current success of the series.
And what about the fans? How will they benefit?
When North One Sport embarked on its 10-year plan to overhaul the WRC the ultimate goal was always to create the best possible entertainment for the fans that remain the lifeblood of our sport. With CSI's investment accelerating that plan - and a close collaboration with the WRC stakeholders, especially the FIA - we're confident that the changes coming will result in more manufacturers, more opportunities for drivers, closer competition, better media coverage and a more ambitious and expansive calendar and format for the sport. Watch this space!
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