SÖLDEN, Austria (AP) — The International Ski Federation is turning to Bernie Ecclestone for advice, hoping the former Formula 1 boss can do to Alpine skiing what he did to car racing in the past.
FIS President Johan Eliasch said Friday he has approached Ecclestone to become part of a new advisory board, intended to help skiing’s governing body shape the future of the sport.
“Bernie did incredibly well with Formula 1, took that from a sport that was not so recognized to a global super sport. I always value his input. The idea is that he will be on a future advisory board of FIS,” said Eliasch, who was speaking on the eve of the season-opening World Cup races in the Austrian Alps this weekend.
Ecclestone, who turns 91 next Thursday, gained a marketing grip on F1 in the late 1970s by selling its TV rights. Four decades later, the British business magnate had full commercial control over the sport when he stepped down in 2017.
Eliasch is hoping that Ecclestone’s experience can help Alpine skiing to improve its global marketing.
“It is not the question of if, it is the question of when, because I don’t think there is any other international federation which has not centralized its rights management or is in the process of doing so,” Eliasch said.
The issue with the decentralized rights management became obvious this week, as ski fans in the United States were unsure for a long time if they would be able to see this weekend’s races, which includes American racers like Mikaela Shiffrin, Nina O’Brien, and Paula Moltzan in Saturday’s women’s giant slalom, and Ryan Cochran-Siegle and River Radamus in Sunday’s men’s GS.
It only became clear on Friday that the races will be shown in the U.S. on an online streaming service.
“I am very, very concerned about that. That was one of my commitments, to centralize the rights management,” Eliasch said. “This is a very good example for why it is so important that we are in control. It shouldn’t be even a possibility that races cannot be seen, especially in such a large market for us as the U.S.”
Ecclestone would not be the only FIS adviser at an advanced age, as 80-year-old Peter Schröcksnadel, the former president of the Austrian ski federation, is chairman of the Alpine Future Vision Working Group, which was installed after Eliasch’s election last June.
“He is very active and has many very good ideas,” Eliasch said. “It is a bit early to deliberate on what we are going to do in the future. We are evaluating many possibilities, including the increase of night races and different calendars to make races less travel intensive. Also, the formats, to make them more attractive. And to get races to more destinations.”
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Eric Willemsen, The Associated Press