Supercars boss explains survival plan

Supercars CEO Sean Seamer says a number of factors unique to the category is helping it buck a worrying financial trend across the Australian sporting landscape – at least for now.

Supercars boss explains survival plan

A number of major sporting organisations have been forced into significant changes since the coronavirus pandemic truly hit Australian shores.

The football codes have been hit hard, with the Australian Football League, the National Rugby League and the A-League all suspended.

The majority of AFL staff at both club and organisational level have been stood down, while the players have agreed to a 50 per cent pay cut.

There have been similar measures in both the Rugby League and round ball world.

Supercars has, however, so far avoided similar fate. The organisation itself is choosing to clear accrued annual leave with some staff, while the rest continue to work.

Most of the teams are taking a similar route while effectively locked down.

While conceding not being able to race is doing damage to the Supercars business, Seamer says there are some unique factors setting it apart from the ball codes for the time being.

The obvious one is the ability to simulate motor racing, which it will do through what's shaping up as a very positive Eseries.

That dovetails with a new media strategy that's been in development long before the pandemic wreaked its havoc around the globe, which started with the premiere of the Inside Line documentary last night.

"Our number one priority is making sure we can keep the sport relevant," said Seamer.

"We're in a unique position versus any other sport in Australia in that we're able to simulate actual racing. We're not naive enough to think that the Eseries is going to be as good as the real product, but it's certainly great content in a time when people are starved for content.

"We're very fortunate that the docuseries around Erebus is, again, good, premium content that can keep us front-of-mind and relevant around the market.

"The reality is that we as a sport have been working for a year now on a content and media strategy that acknowledges and starts to work on the fact that we can't race 52 weekends a year anyway.

"So how do we create ratings when we're not racing? What you're seeing over the next three months is an execution of that strategy.

"That will help all of us navigate this period."

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Other factors include less populated staffing models compared to the ball sports, as well as a more deliverable schedule, even if the time frames are cut short.

"We're a very lean group of people in the first instance," he said.

"The second point that I would make is that when we're not racing, we're not incurring any costs.

"We're not special. Everybody is hurting. But what we're focused on right now is what we need to do to keep the sport relevant over the next few months to make sure we're satisfying as much of our deliverables as possible.

"For us, we're talking about 14 rounds. Not 22. Not 30. Not every weekend. Not twice a week. The challenge that we're dealing with is different.

"It's not permanent. We will be back.

"Let's be clear here. We're talking about two weeks since our last event. We weren't scheduled to go racing yet.

"So the cadence of this championship and the cadence of this business is different. And we've always been very clear that when we make decisions they'll be clear, they'll be decisive, and we're not going to communicate our thought process publicly.

"We're very, very different to the other sports. We're focussed on delivering this championship between now and when we go racing again next year."

Federal government schemes such as the job keeper allowance, designed to motivate business to retain staff through the crisis, will also play their part.

"The work that the government is doing around job keeper, job seeker, GST breaks etcetera significantly helps motorsport," said Seamer.

"That doesn't mean we're having a good time, we're under the same challenges as everyone else.

"But if we're not racing, we're not incurring as much cost as everyone else. But we still have to be lean and mean and ready to go again at the end of the year."

While praising teams for their entrepreneurial spirit during testing times, such as medical equipment work being undertaken by Erebus and Triple Eight, Seamer stopped short of guaranteeing all teams will survive the suspension in racing.

"From all the conversations I've had from all the teams, the one thing that's glaringly obvious is that motorsport is taking a bit of a back seat, in terms of what our priorities are and values are collectively," he said.

"It would be too early to speculate as to who's there [when racing resumes] and in what form that's taking place.

"What I'm saying is, in the conversations I've had with all the team owners, their priorities are on their families, their business, on their people.

"What the championship looks like and how that plays out is our focus, and that's what they're relying on us for."

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Series Supercars
Author Andrew van Leeuwen
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