Mini-View: John Farris (V.P. AMA Pro-Racing)
RJ: You were with Chevy Trucks/General Motors, and now you’ve come on board with AMA Pro-Racing. Can you comment on AMA Pro-Racing’s decision to work with a new promoter starting in 2003?
John: The AMA and Clear Channel were at the end of the contractual obligations to each other. Decisions had to be made for the sport, especially starting in 2003.
We initiated discussions with Clear Channel over 18 months ago. We presented two different offers for them to continue as the primary promoter of the AMA Supercross Series. Those offers had them continuing to run the marketing, sponsorship, and television of the series. Neither one of those offers was accepted by Clear Channel.
When the AMA board saw that Clear Channel possibly did not want to work with us, they had to start looking at other options. At the end of the period of time to look at all the options, we had four candidates for 2003 and beyond, one of those being Clear Channel, to promote the series.
RJ: To have live television coming in 2003 is a tremendous change for the sport. How important is that to you?
John: Live television is essential to the development of any sport, including supercross. With all the different forms of communication available to fans, it’s easy to find out who won. Live television makes it a ‘destination’ every week from January into May. Fans will seek it out, and become comfortable with watching supercross on Saturday nights – live.
The other component of the TV package is that it’s 3 hours of actual programming. It will not be that we just watch the gate drop and short clips of qualifying and two main events. It will be a great opportunity to build personality of the sport’s competitors. It also helps build opportunities for the sponsors of supercross.
RJ: I’ve been an AMA member for a long time. There are a lot of misconceptions about what the AMA is and does. Can you address those misconceptions a lot of us have?
John: Yes. That’s certainly a common question that’s been asked recently. Part of our task in the future will be to clarify that.
For supercross, much of it depends on the contractual relationship between promoter and sanctioning body. Currently, AMA Pro-Racing is responsible for making sure a purse is paid, the track is as safe as possible, proper rules are enforced, and that there is fair competition as a result of those rules. This makes sure it stays a ‘sport’ rather than a ‘show’.
If a promoter did their own sanctioning, then there is no reason to enforce rules, or even pay the purse monies. It’s seems in the recent past that those aspects have dwindled, and no one is benefiting except the promoter. The AMA’s role is to make sure there is the right balance between all the stakeholders in the sport. That includes riders, teams, promoters, fans, and sanctioning bodies. Everyone needs to benefit and be healthy if the sport is to grow.
RJ: I’ve worked with Chevy/General Motors … they are a big company. Branding, along with identifying their customers is very important to them. The AMA is known, but not as ‘cool’ or respected as it should be. Can that be made better?
John: Yes, and that will be part of my job to do that. There is no question there needs to be more development of the AMA and AMA Pro-Racing brand. Over the years, our position was to license off properties, with others managing them. With our new executive talent, and under the leadership of our AMA Pro-Racing board, we are taking the management of our brand very seriously. We will communicate what we stand for – the betterment of motorcycling, legitimate competition, expanding growth for all stakeholders, and making sure racing is viable for as many teams as possible.