Bernie wants ‘long-term’ deal
WHERE ENGLISH FOOTBALL is concerned, it’s the year we’ll remember for Iceland, the ‘Huh’, and the ignominy of that night in Nice, though before we reach too many conclusions about the national team’s irrelevance, consider the TV ratings.
That match on the French Riviera remains the most watched programme of 2016, from which only 298 people tuned out.
Then compare the Argentinian viewing public, during the 3-0 defeat to Brazil which left qualification for the 2018 World Cup looking like a stretch.
At halftime, with their team trailing 2-0, millions in that football obsessed country switched channels to watch the last episode of a Brazilian mini-series called ‘Moses and the Ten Plagues.’
Though the 3-0 win over Colombia in Buenos Aires last Tuesday improved the picture slightly, the night ended with the farcical spectacle of the entire team standing, po-faced and arms folded, on a platform behind Lionel Messi, as he declared through a microphone that, because of a radio report that Ezequiel Lavezzi had smoked marijuana – which the player denies – “we have decided not to speak any more with the press. Getting into someone’s personal space is very grave.”
England are certainly well ahead of this nation in the popularity stakes. Though there’s something in the characteristic swagger of the Albiceleste which makes other South Americans always desperate to beat them, it’s far more bitter than sweet between the players and their public, too.
The mass overseas exodus of the best talent lies at the heart of it. “When the national team is playing we feel like a First World country,” braggadocio Angels with Dirty Faces’, FORMULA ONE supremo Bernie Ecclestone said he wants to strike a “long-term” deal with Singapore this year, playing down earlier comments that the city-state is looking to drop its iconic night race.
Ecclestone’s latest statement provide some positive news for Formula One in Southeast Asia, after neighbouring Malaysia confirmed it was dropping its grand prix after 2018.
He claimed his initial comments had been taken “in a funny way” by a German auto magazine which quoted him as saying that Singapore no longer wanted to host Formula One.
“F1’s stand is to hopefully continue in Singapore,” the 86year-old told Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper. “Everybody is happy to be in Singapore and (we) don’t want to lose Singapore.
“Negotiations are ongoing and will be sorted out shortly... before the end of the year, I’m sure. We want to extend long-term. We’ll see what happens.”
Ecclestone has described Formula One’s first night race, which started in 2008 and snakes past Singapore landmarks, as a “crown jewel” of the sport. Barcelona teammates Neymar (left) and Lionel Messi in action during the Brazil vs Argentina World Cup qualifer recently where Brazil won 3-0.
But Germany’s Auto Motor Und Sport quoted him as saying that Singapore wasn’t looking to renew its current contract, which will expire after next year’s race.
“Yes, the grand prix has cost Singapore a lot of money, but we’ve also given them a lot of money. Singapore was suddenly more than just an airport to fly to or from somewhere,” Ecclestone was quoted as saying.
“Now, they believe they have reached their goal and they do not want a grand prix any more,” he added, according to the report.
When contacted by AFP, a Singapore GP spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on ongoing commercial negotiations.”
Singapore’s 23-turn, Marina Bay street circuit is seen as one of the most challenging on the calendar and has proved popular with fans.
But organisers said a slowing economic climate has seen daily attendance slump to 73,000 this year from 87,000 in 2015.
On Monday, Malaysia confirmed it was pulling out of F1 after 2018 due to falling revenue and a lack of interest, ending one of Asia’s longest-running races. – AFP