Tom Bushell talks sport

Our columnist considers the impact of Emirates’ new F1 sponsorship deal, and gets ready to welcome the Sailing Arabia Tour


Think of Dubai airline Emirates and plenty of sports spring to mind. The carrier has sponsorship deals with everyone from Arsenal FC to the US Open Tennis Series: its investment in sport is second to none. And it doesn’t stop there: Emirates has now become a global partner of Formula One, with a five-year sponsorship deal reported to be worth Dhs734 million.

This means Emirates branding will feature prominently at 15 of the 19 races in 2013, although the airline obviously won’t play a part in those grands prix with existing airline tie-ups (such as Abu Dhabi, which is sponsored by rival airline Etihad). The deal adds yet another corporate leader to the F1 line-up, with Emirates joining existing big-name sponsors such as Rolex and Pirelli. F1 is a worldwide series that attracted half a billion TV viewers in 2012. That’s not bad coverage if you’re willing to pay for it.

Several questions are raised here, of course. Will Emirates be tempted back into F1 team sponsorship, or does it fancy owning a team? The airline has been involved in F1 before: during the 2006 season it sponsored the McLaren team, when Lewis Hamilton was a test driver.But why sponsor one team when you can sponsor the whole season? F1 will always be successful – a team may not be. Being involved in the entire sport means more coverage and more success.

The second question is whether Dubai will host a grand prix. It’s possible, but unlikely for now. Two events in the UAE could work – with Abu Dhabi and Dubai both hosting a race – but with Bahrain also staging a race and Qatar interested, many will argue that the region is already well served.

Having said that, we’ve just seen three European Tour golf events take place in the region, in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai, and there’s a fourth coming up: the DP World Tour Championship in November. With those credentials, maybe a ‘Desert Swing’ of F1 could be viable.

The CEO of F1 certainly has his future mapped out. Bernie Ecclestone, now 82, said that he will retire on an Emirates A380. Ah, so that explains the new sponsorship deal – it’s basically Bernie’s retirement plan.
Tom Bushell hosts Sport On 7 on City 7 TV (Mon 8pm) and is Arabian Radio Network’s head of sport.

And another thing...
We’ll see a lot of action in the water this week as the Sailing Arabia Tour comes to Dubai. Arabia’s number one offshore sailing race sees teams from all over the Gulf and Europe compete over three weeks: the race kicked off last weekend in Bahrain and is due to stop in Dubai on Sunday February 17. The race then continues on to Muscat via Mussanah in Oman. Every team sails the same boat – the Farr 30 – so it really is a test of skill. Keep your eyes peeled for them!

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