Voices

CRAILL: CLIPSAL CAUGHT IN THE BLAME GAME

PRESIDENT TRUMP’s attack on the US media is, of course, completely ridiculous and bound in a fiction created in his mind that the world is out to get him. Which, to be fair, a lot of it is because he is, in many people’s opinion, a bit of a buffoon.

And while I can not possibly agree with his position on allowing media to actually have their say about the stuff he is cocking up, sometimes local examples do cause for a pause and a re-set in my own approach on analysing how the media cover things here.

Take the weekend’s Clipsal 500 Adelaide for example.

If you live in Adelaide, or jumped to the website of News Limited paper The Advertiser this morning, you could be fooled for thinking that the Clipsal 500 is teetering on the edge of disaster.

‘Numbers down at thrilling last Clipsal’ the paper headlined on their website www.theadvertiser.com.au, today – at least acknowledging Sunday’s cracking race.

I’m not saying that there’s a trump-inspired conspiracy here but there’s certainly an effort to create some clicks where there isn’t really a story.

“FLAGGING Clipsal 500 crowd numbers could not silence the enthusiasm of thousands of diehard motorsport fans who flocked to the last of the historic events before new sponsors take over next year.

“V8 fans again roared their approval of the bravery and skill of the drivers on track but organisers have been sharply criticised by fans over this year’s event,” the story continued.

“By last night’s deadline, final day crowd numbers were not available. But based on the previous day’s attendance of 75,100, this year’s event had the lowest crowd since 2004, when 71,800 people attended on day three. This year’s day one and day two crowds were the lowest since 2012.”

I suppose the story worked because a) I clicked the link and b) here I am writing a response.

Anyway..

Even Triple M – Supercars official Radio partner- joined in this morning with Tourism minister Leon Bignell having to defend a comment from ‘someone’ that the Sport was in financial trouble.

“Someone has contacted us to say that the sport is in big big trouble financially. Is this true?” asked local legend Mark Ricciuto.

“Certainly none of the indicators I got, and I was talking to people from Ford in Michigan in the US, this is a great series on a world scale, and Adelaide puts on the best race of all the supercar races. I think you might want to check your facts.” Mr Bignell replied in an interview that was otherwise, very positive.

Firstly, few people – even the most parochial supporters of the event – would disagree that numbers were down.

There were empty seats in a grandstand that five years ago was completely sold out and the lack of a Sunday night marquee concert was a mistake.

Few would disagree that ticket prices, for the most part, continue to be more expensive than perhaps they should. The negative press about the weather, the company putting up the grandstands falling over and even the sport in general (Volvo’s withdrawal, Holden and Ford shutting down, etc) will not have helped pre-event sales.

But there’s also no doubting that the state is in a dark place economically (and literally, if you understand the state’s power issues).

March continues to be the maddest time of year in Adelaide, with the Adelaide Fringe and Festival well underway and Footy Season fast approaching.

A heavy summer of Cricket at the Adelaide Oval and the success of the AFL-W has thrown open choices for where people spend their limited budgets and perhaps more importantly, their increasingly limited time.

But let’s be realistic: any event that draws more than 250,000 people over four days is still a big deal.

Any event that draws more than 60,000 per day for three days in a row is also a big deal.

The hotels were still full. The city still had an incredible vibe every night and on TV the precinct looked as excellent and as humming as it always does – and in the end, it’s the TV footage where the government’s investment is really targeted.

I watched Sunday’s race back that night and Adelaide looked a treat.

What I think we have here is a combination of several factors.

The Advertiser is at the moment a paper that appears to be angling for a regime change in South Australian politics and certainly isn’t doing Jay Weatherill’s government any favors.

The Clipsal 500 is now a completely government-run event so it can no longer hide behind the Motorsport board when things aren’t quite so rosy: When people are out for the government, any event on their portfolio is going to be in the cross-hairs at some point.

And right now there’s a feeling that a lot of people in this state are looking over their shoulders for the next attack rather than looking forward and finding ways to build the state out of it’s current issues, and I think that’s the case here.

I think people are nervous that another great South Aussie ‘thing’ could be under threat and their response, in typical local fashion, is to find someone to blame rather than talking it up for its merits.

The ‘500 is also a victim of it’s own success and status within the South Australian community.

It’s always going to be a comedown when in 2013, just five years ago, the event put the ‘Sold Out’ signs on the gate during Sunday’s race after more than 95,000 had crammed in to see either the race or the epic Kiss / Motley Crue concert that night.

So as someone who works in the sport full-time, I’m pretty happy that my code can still draw 75,000 without the added bonus of two of the worlds biggest bands on the program.

So what do we do? Nothing, really. Certainly there is no need for knee-jerk reactions from the event management, the Government or Supercars.

And I get the irony that it’s a knee-jerk reaction that got me writing this, but I digress..

Those who work in the sport know its relative health and those who work in the game know how important and special the event is.

As a sport we need to continue to push what we’re doing in the best possible light, showcasing the positive stuff as often as possible and in new and inventive ways. We need to own the errors, make changes as needed and use them to build it forward.

And if that’s the case, Trump’s so-called ‘Dishonest media’ will continue to give South Australia’s biggest event and the sport around it the plaudits it deserves.

WORDS: Richard Craill
IMAGE: Dirk Klynsmith