Barcelona mulls Formula 1 bow-out

Catalonia joins Valencia region in rethinking costly role as motorsport host

After it emerged last week that the Valencia government is reconsidering its role as host of the European Grand Prix due to the parlous state of the region's finances, the Catalonia government said Monday that it too may have to rethink its hosting of motor racing fixtures.

Speaking to the RAC1 radio station, Catalan economy chief Andreu Mas-Colell said that "we may reconsider holding Formula 1 and motorcycling Grands Prix here," before adding: "It isn't clear whether we can do so in the current climate."

The Circuit de Catalunya has formed part of the Formula 1 fixture list since 1991, and there is currently a deal in place to run races there until 2016.

"It's not the first thing that we are going to rethink," Mas-Colell continued, "but we are living in times when we have to look line by line at what we are spending money on." The economy chief admitted, however, that there "are contracts that would be more expensive to break than they would be to maintain."

The Valencia regional government, which had to resort to a guarantee last week from the central government to cover the repayment of a 123-million-euro loan owed to Deutsche Bank, is also in the process of distancing itself from the large, costly events put in place under the watch of former regional leader, Francisco Camps, currently on trial for allegedly having accepted expensive gifts in return for awarding valuable contracts to a corrupt business ring.

The Valencia government, now led by Alberto Fabra, revealed last week that it had sent a letter to Bernie Ecclestone, the president and CEO of Formula One Management, to address the issue of a possible revision to the agreement.

The European Grand Prix, which has been run on a street circuit in the Mediterranean city since 2008, has proved costly for the Valencia region's coffers. The government pays Ecclestone's company a yearly fee of 20.5 million euros, while regional TV station Canal 9 must pay 4.4 million euros a year for the broadcast rights. The circuit itself cost 100 million euros to build.

However, the regional government will not be able to unilaterally cancel the contract, in place until 2014, without facing costly penalty clauses.

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