Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 2017

New Belgian Grand Prix deal to 2021 confirmed

2019 F1 season

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Formula 1 management has confirmed Spa will remain on the calendar for three more seasons, as RaceFans reported earlier this week.

Walloon Minister for the Economy said said he was pleased with the new deal following improved ticket sales for last year’s Belgian Grand Prix.

“This is a good deal which makes sure that such an important event stays in our region, thus placing us on a global visibility platform,” he said.

“The regional and national economic benefit is significant: in 2017 we had a return on investment of 315% and ticket sales increased by 7.5%. It is also a significant first for us as we have now concluded a successful and rewarding
negotiation with Formula 1.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on “New Belgian Grand Prix deal to 2021 confirmed”

  1. A 3x ROI? That’s impressive, and makes one wonder why more governments don’t extend additional support to F1 venues if they can generate such returns.

    1. @phylyp In Belgium motorsport is not considered a ‘topsport’ hence no funding whatsoever. If you want to play tennis at semi-professional level and you have to skip class for it you’re legally allowed to do so and have another date planned to get tests done, if you need to drive a Grand Prix in the Formula One world championship, make sure your doctor also signed a sicknote.

      1. @flatsix – Really? F1 not top motorsport in Belgium? That’s pretty crazy! Are you local?

        @phylyp – Yes 3 x ROI is amazing – I am sure they consider local economic revenue as well, that can only be estimated, but that is awesome if correct. Does anyone know (or think) what Spa pays for the race? If they are doing that kind of Return on Investment what are other countries doing wrong that they are pushing F1 away?

        I think Sepang, that is one hell on a track. But local Government decided its too expensive- post BE negotiations may help but maybe some countries don’t fulfil the potential of a local F1 race?

        1. @garns I think you’re misunderstanding my post. If people perform a sport in Belgium and reach a certain level they get the status of ‘top sport athlete’, this allows them to miss classes for training, miss tests for championships for example. So this works for tennis, hockey, football, but not for any motorsport related sports. On top these ‘top sport athletes’ can count on a certain amount of funding from the government, again something racecar drivers cannot count on.

          So the many fans certainly think motorsport is a top sport, the Belgian government doesn’t think so.

          1. @flatsix
            Hey mate- I think I interpreted your post ok but didn’t word my response correctly. Sorry for that. I was surprised that the Belgium government didn’t rate Motorsport as high as other sports as you mentioned above. I would have thought it was a strong sport there but Motorsport never seems to get that recognition it deserves.

            Here in Australia its the same- AFL, soccer, Supercars – F1 gets a little, but not too much :(

        2. @garns – agreed that it’s not just circuit revenues, since it’s the Walloon Minister for the Economy who stated that it is the benefit to the regional and national economy.

          And that just goes to underscore the question both of us raised – if that minister & ministry are far-sighted enough to see that any investment comes back with a better return when aggregated across the tourism/hospitality sector for that weekend, why is that success not being emulated elsewhere. Even if they don’t hit this high an ROI, anything greater than 1 should be a win in their books.

          Seeing as he’s the “F1 finances” man, maybe that’s something Dieter can also weigh in on.

          @flatsix – I think we’re referring to different things, you’re referring to governmental support to motorsport drivers, while I was referring to governmental support towards a circuit (either tax breaks, or a direct cash infusion). That said, your point about how motorsport is viewed there is very interesting, and one can hope that Stoffel’s presence in F1 helps bring about a gradual change, especially since Belgium possesses one of the finest F1 circuits.

          1. @phylyp
            Short answer: I am not sure: depends on what governments think .
            Monaco has no cost on hosting fees but one person said it has only 44K in attendance- most view from private balconies so obviously much higher. Under BE hosting fees were so high, but he didn’t care, Liberty seem to be more interested in the viewer/attendee.

            Liberty have a balancing act to deal with here, they need to look at investment in the future.

  2. F1 at Spa is always good news. :)

  3. Setting aside the fact that Spa as a circuit deserves to be on the calendar, on the commercial side we have to be pragmatic: politicians know that F1 is a popular vote spinner – not only amongst fans, but also the surrounding hospitality industry – and the last thing a politician wants is to be held responsible for losing a GP, or the possibility thereof. Belgium goes to the polls on 14 October, so 6 weeks after this year’s race…

    Then he needs to justify the decision to underwrite the race – he is hardly going to say it has no economic benefit. Note that he referred only to 2017, a year when the Max V fans trooped across the border, there was no German GP (so Vettel and Hulk fans had to travel) and Stoffel VD raced on F1 home soil for the first time.

    When ruling politicians talk about economic impact of whatever it is always positive, when opposition politicians talk about it, its negative…and who measures it, how and why, in any event? Is it the local chippie whose turnover went up 315% on Friday night, the local hotels who hiked prices by 315%, or the amount of fuel sold by the local garage?

    Finally, the Belgian spend in the area needs to be offset by the amount the locals would have spent elsewhere in Belgium – it is substitute spend, not incremental spend – but of course no politicians would do that. I recall reading about the economic impact allegedly made by a particular race: They spoke of 200 000 punters at a circuit that held 40k when full, which it wasn’t – and when you divided the alleged spend by the true number of visitors, each would have had to spend around $15k over four days – and, of course, the race hosting fee had left the country, which is conveniently overlooked…

    When all is said and done, its great that my home circuit Spa continues, but let’s not get carried away by pre-election talk. If GPs really had 315% ROIs Liberty would have a waiting list 200 countries long – and right now they don’t even know whether they’ll retain 21 races, hence no 2019 calendar (yet).

    1. Brilliant points, @dieterrencken , and definitely adds valuable context to that 315%!

    2. Thank you for the perspective there @dieterrencken. Yeah, I am pretty sure that it is most likely a positive overall (when the track is sold out) when taking everything in account – and I am sure that Spa doesn’t pay anywhere near the amounts an Abu Dhabi, Bahrain or Baku pay for the “fun”, but 300+ % (i always love ppl using false exact feeling numbers like 315%) is probably not a realistic overall benefit!

    3. Well said @dieterrencken, and adds a useful nuance to the official story. I am glad that they found a way to keep Spa, but indeed, it probably isn’t such a big win, or its future would never have been even slightly in doubt.

  4. Paging Silverstone, about to have its penultimate race…

  5. Ok, I got some numbers together on the 315% ROI: The shortfall between total cost of staging the race and the total income accruing to the promoter was about EU8,5m, which was paid by the public purse.

    The total spend by all visitors to the race was about EU27m, which is the quoted 315% on the public subsidy. This is food, fuel, accommodation and anything else except tickets spent in the area as a direct result of a visitor being at the grand prix, VAT included.

    Remember that due to a lack of accommodation many weekend visitors go camping (cheapish), or stay in nearby Germany, Luxembourg or Netherlands – the cross-border income does not accrue to the Walloon state. I estimate that last year there were about 75 000 individual visitors – the promoter claimed 265k, but that was over 4 days, plus the attendance figure is usually inflated by 10% (at least) – so on average each one spent EU385.

    But that is far from the bottom line gross, which was probably around 30% of that, so around EU130 gross per head, or EU10m – slightly more than the state subsidy. Of course, there are tax considerations which accrue directly to the national government and trickle down to local level (VAT is 21%) and economic multipliers that are usually elastic, but in real terms I calculate that the race broke even at best for the state. Which is the way it should be.

    Still, for politicians facing local elections 315% sounds better than break-even…

    1. Many thanks for this follow-up, Dieter, it is very eye-opening to see that number of 315% dissected into its actual components, and how it is being spun by local politicians.

    2. Great value add @dieterrencken, and nice to see something like accurate numbers for a European race! About even sounds good to me too. Your post makes me wonder, as I’ve done before with Spa, whether it would be profitable to build more accommodation in the area – it is a reasonably popular holiday region, isn’t it? (I used to be in a youth hostel in december for ‘doctoral ”summer” courses there – in winter because of price, no doubt).

    3. Thanks, @dieterrencken! If Spa remains on the calendar it’s pure profit for F1 fans.

    4. Thanks for that update with some reasonable numbers to put the claimed 315% into perspective

  6. Honestly! What are we doing here, rehashing old news or what? What was the point to post the exact same article twice on the same site? This isn’t news anymore as it was reported a few days ago already on this site (as well as on other similarly F1 news-related sites), LOL. No offense, though.

    1. The minister’s comments, the subsequent discussion it generated and the facts & viewpoints that Dieter shared are all new information to me, to be honest.

  7. The point is that we ‘broke’ the news that a deal had been signed on 16 June, but there had been no confirmation from Liberty until today. This is article is the confirmation. No offence…

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