Emirates snubs F1 team sponsorship deal

Emirates Airline has rejected offers of a Formula 1 sponsorship package for next season, despite rumours that the carrier is looking to tie-up a deal to back a new entrant team to the F1 World Championship.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  October 23, 2005

Emirates Airline has rejected offers of a Formula 1 sponsorship package for next season, despite rumours that the carrier is looking to tie-up a deal to back a new entrant team to the F1 World Championship. Honda is widely believed to be engaged in negotiations with an unnamed independent team, which could result in two more cars joining the grid next season. Mercedes-Benz is also considering launching a second team. Part of Emirates’ heavy sports sponsorship programme, which includes the football World Cup in Germany next summer and the America’s Cup yachting competition, comes to an end in around a year’s time. As such, the airline is believed to be seriously considering shifting into F1 — a move it denied last week. “When it comes to sponsorship I can deny that Emirates is interested in Formula One,” Mike Simon, a senior vice president at Emirates told Arabian Business. “We have had a number of approaches in the past, but have declined them all,” he added. Rumours abounded last year that Dubai planned to launch its own F1 team in the 2006 World Championship, but nothing ever came of them. ‘Team Dubai F1’ said it would pay a US$48 million security deposit to auto racing’s governing body, FIA, paving the way for participation in the World Championship. The proposed team, which was due to be operated by Dubai-based Grand Prix Investments, said it was in negotiations with Mercedes-Benz for the supply of engines and with McLaren for technical assistance. The latest rumours suggested that the failed Dubai F1 project is involved in Honda’s bid for the 11th team for 2006. Japanese motorsport legend Aguri Suzuki and Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum (the brother of the A1 Grand Prix founder Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum) were reportedly at the helm of the latest F1 team link. Any such tie-up has been ruled out, however. “I’ve read with interest for the past couple of years stories on sports pages alleging that Emirates is negotiating with Formula One team but these stories aren't true,” Simon added. Emirates has invested millions of dollars in sport sponsorship over the years. As such, the airline claims it is busy enough managing its current stable of teams and events. “Our portfolio of sports events at present includes English Premier League and the Championship League referees, the upcoming FIFA World Cup and Arsenal FC in terms of football,” explained Simon. “In horse racing we have the Dubai World Cup, the Melbourne Cup, the Singapore Derby and Godolphin. We also have ICC umpires in cricket as well as interests in golf, offshore boat racing and rugby. All of these contribute to building our global brand and keep us pretty busy,” he added. Meanwhile, Dubai’s Union Properties last week signed an agreement with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone to build a US$360 million theme park known as ‘Formula One World’ at Dubailand’s MotorCity development. “I’m pleased to be working with Union Properties and have every confidence they will deliver an outstanding development, which F1 fans the world over will enjoy,” said Ecclestone at last week’s Chinese Grand Prix. The existing MotorCity facility includes Dubai’s FIA-sanctioned racetrack. And the construction of the new park could open the door for Ecclestone to approve the staging of a race in the UAE. There is only one grand prix in the Middle East at present, in Bahrain.

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