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Nov 20, 2001

AMA Pro Racing CEO Says All Is Good With Supercross Deal

An interesting e-mail exchange, sent to us by advertising agency owner Dan Wildhirt:<BR><BR>I thought you might be interested in a recent exchange of e-mails I had with (AMA Pro Racing CEO) Scott Hollingsworth, regarding the developing Supercross scandal. Normally I would consider such communications private, but in light of the past week's developments, I feel it's important to expose just how misguided and delusional is the management of AMA Pro Racing. While CCE (Clear Channel Entertainment) has in the last seven days announced long-term agreements for venues, an impressive TV package, merchandising and even track construction, the best that Hollingsworth can do is seize upon cornball platitudes such as "new business model" and "clear vision of the future."<BR><BR>Dan Wildhirt<BR><BR><BR>-----------------------------<BR>My initial e-mail, sent 11/5:<BR><BR>Following the Roger Edmonson debacle, one might think that AMA and AMA Pro Racing might proceed with some caution before entering into any new contracts with third-party series promoters. However, it would seem that such an assumption is in error.<BR><BR>Astonishment would perhaps be the first reaction that comes to mind after learning that AMA Pro Racing intends to launch its own Supercross series in 2003 to compete with Clear Channel's phenomenally successful EA Sports SX series. Dumbfounded might be the second.<BR><BR>I'll be curious to see exactly how the AMA intends to compete with a company that is not only the largest, most powerful event promoter in the U.S., and has long-term contracts with established SX venues in major markets, but which also has the ability to promote those events through the nation's largest conglomeration of broadcast radio stations, which it also owns.<BR><BR>Let's jump ahead to 2003, shall we? Perhaps you are intending to somehow "extort" top riders and teams into participating in the new AMA SX series by making their AMA racing licenses contingent upon racing solely in AMA-sanctioned events. After all, this strategy has been tried in a multitude of sports where governing bodies attempted to reign in "renegade" organizations of athletes or promoters: tennis, auto racing, bicycle racing and skiing, to name a few. Those riders and teams, however, will ply their trade where they get the highest return on their investment -- regardless of the sanctioning body -- and Clear Channel obviously has the promotional muscle to give them what they're after: visibility. So what if the AMA bans Clear Channel riders from, say, the outdoor nationals? Given the momentum that Pace/SFX/Clear Channel have built over the past several seasons, it's clear that in two years' time, there will be two types of motocross racing in the U.S.: Clear Channel SX...and everything else. The direct and indirect rewards that riders and manufacturers derive from the EA Sports series will be many times that which they can expect from the rural, minor-market national MX series and an upstart SX series with no proven track record.<BR><BR>The AMA's latest action reminds me of the infamous split between CART and the Indy 500 in the mid-'90s. An "if it ain't broke, break it" mentality has, in just six years, taken open-wheel auto racing from a thriving sport to a pathetic sideshow that struggles for TV ratings, sponsors, media attention and an audience.<BR><BR>As an avid rider and racing fan, I cannot in good conscience support a profoundly duplicitous organization that claims to have motorcyclists' interests at heart, but which continues to squander members' money on quixotic, ill-advised schemes to wrest control of motorcycle racing from the very people who have done the most to ensure the sport's success. And as a contractor to several firms who sponsor riders and teams at the highest levels of AMA-sanctioned racing, I question whether it is in my clients' best interests for them to continue supporting such an organization or its series. <BR><BR>Dan Wildhirt<BR><BR><BR><BR>-----------------------------<BR>Scott Hollingsworth's response, dated 11/6:<BR><BR>Mr. Wildhirt-<BR><BR>Thank you for your interest.<BR><BR>Over the past 27 years, the AMA Supercross Championship has worked with many promoters. Today AMA Pro Racing has a clear vision for the future of its motorsports businesses, and the announcement of our new relationship with Jam Sports & Entertainment is the next step in making that vision a reality. And as you'll see in the coming weeks, our 27-year-old Championship will feature excellent markets, venues, television, rules and a new business model for participants that will increase the championship's value for everyone involved.<BR><BR>Stay tuned for more information.<BR><BR>Best regards,<BR><BR>Scott Hollingsworth CEO, AMA Pro Racing<BR><BR><BR><BR>-----------------------------<BR>My 11/14 reply, following CCE's announcement of its 2003 SX schedule and TV package:<BR><BR>With all due respect, while you're making grand promises and invoking trite buzzwords like "new business model," it seems that Clear Channel has already grabbed the holeshot on you.<BR><BR>Is it your honest belief that current SX venues will actually host competing eries in 2003 -- or that Jam can put together a better TV package than the one CCE already has in place? Or perhaps you expect current venues, most of which are under public ownership, will break their contracts with CCE? In what universe do you think that facility managers, under governmental oversight, are willing to entangle themselves in a legal battle with one of the most powerful entertainment and media conglomerates in the world?<BR><BR>The cliche "rude awakening" does not seem adequate to describe the fate that awaits AMA Pro Racing and the National Supercross Championship.<BR><BR>Dan Wildhirt<BR><BR><BR>-----------------------------<BR>Hollingsworth has yet to reply to this latest message.