South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has put the motorsport world in a spin over his decision to axe the Superloop 500.
South Australian’s still refer to the event as “The Clipsal weekend”, in reference to its initial and long serving sponsor.
That alone should tell you the standing this event has gained in SA over its 22-year history, given Clipsal pulled out as the events major sponsor in 2017.
The Premier blamed the decision to axe the event on a mix of rising costs, falling crowds, declining commercial interest and a dash of COVID-19 pandemic for his decision.
The decision seemed to come from nowhere with no one seemingly knowing anything about it expect the Premier and the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC).
The local media were blind sighted as were motorsport fans and industry representatives.
It seems the SATC made the recommendation to axe the event to the state government, with the Premier acting on the recommendation.
Mr Marshall struck fast and without emotion or proper explanation.
The SATC have told anyone who will listen that, regardless of their recommendation, the Premier was the man who made the final decision.
How very brave the SATC, considering they admit to making the recommendation in the first place.
Regardless of how the decision was made, it’s a bad one for several reasons.
Firstly, the exposure the event gives Adelaide to the domestic visitor audience in Australia is incredible.
Regardless of direct attendance at the event, The Adelaide 500 puts the city and the state in the national spotlight.
Supercars heavily promotes the event which reduces the otherwise cost of advertising it to motorsport fans.
The nightly news bulletins take footage and send it out across the country.
How much is this much spotlight worth to South Australia?
Secondly, Adelaide is a motorsport town, now with no motorsport event.
When the F1 Grand Prix went to Melbourne after it’s final event in Adelaide in 1995 there was a statewide outcry.
Just 3 years later, the then Liberal government secured a contract with Supercars Australia to host an event the following year.
The event has been loved by locals ever since. Now, I am not a motorsport fan and have never been to the race.
But I am a supporter of the race being staged here. I have many friends and family members who travel to Adelaide to watch the race year in, year out.
Adelaide itself has a proud history in car production and motorsport.
Elizabeth was the home of Holden (and the Holden Racing Team by extension) for several decades before the sad decision to close car manufacturing operations.
In the year 2000 I proudly headed down the Southern Expressway every morning and set about building cars at the then Mitsubishi factory at Tonsley.
Sadly, both manufactures are now gone but Adelaide residents have cars in their blood.
This race was the last remaining link to what Adelaideans see as a huge part of their heritage.
Mr Marshall has decided to take that from them for “commercial reasons”.
Finally, the financial reasons to axe this event do not stack up.
The Premier says the annual $10 million dollar investment the state makes no longer represented a good return on investment in visitors to the state or jobs.
Let us delve a little deeper into that claim.
When announcing investments into various industries or projects, most of the Marshall Governments press releases are very light on details when it comes to job creation figures.
But I did manage to find two examples of why, financially, the decision to axe the Superloop 500 does not stack up.
On September 20th 2020 Mr Marshall issued a press release singing the praises of the state and federal government’s investment into the transformation of the Monarto Zoo.
He quotes a figure of $40 million to be spent on the project, $15.8 million of which came from the state and federal governments.
The press release quotes “The construction of the project is expected to generate 72 direct full-time jobs, and 151 indirect full-time jobs”.
Remember those figures, $15.8 million of investment for a total of 223 direct and indirect jobs.
On the February 2nd 2020 Mr Marshall’s Environment Minister David Spiers issued a press release promoting a $2.5 million investment by the state government into 9 recycling projects.
Mr Spiers proudly states that the investments will net the state around 60 jobs.
But what about the job creation for the $10 million the state government invests into the Superloop 500?
Not surprisingly we have heard nothing from the Premier on this point since the decision was made other than his line about rising costs and falling commercial interest.
Thankfully, the Ausleisure website published a story on its website after the 2019 event with just the stats I was looking for.
The story quotes research conducted by independent economic research experts, Economic Research Consultants.
That research found the 2019 Superloop 500 resulted in 90,001 visitor nights and created 435 full-time equivalent jobs.
Remember the $10 million dollar investment that the state government claimed it makes to put the Superloop event on every year?
My maths tells me, the Superloop 500 stacks up quite favourably against the two examples listed above.
Admittedly the number of spectators dropped significantly from 2019 to 2020.
In 2019 the Superloop 500 attracted 254,000 in 2019 and was the largest domestic ticketed motorsport event in Australia.
In 2020 that figure dropped to 206,000. That is a drop in attendance of nearly 20%, but still a very big number.
Can you imagine AFL clubs Adelaide or Port Adelaide complaining about having that number of people entering Adelaide Oval to watch their teams play over 4 consecutive days?
Mr Marshall’s comments about the event not stacking up financially need greater clarification.
As the Premier of a state that has suffered through recent droughts, bushfires and a pandemic surely Mr Marshall has a feel for the room.
South Australia needs every shred of positivity it can muster in today’s economic and social climate.
Cutting a loved event that gives the state such pride is hardly the way to reward South Australians who have suffered greatly over the past 12 months.
There a several other questions that remain unanswered regarding the Superloop 500’s demise.
How hard did the SATC work to promote this event?
Would the attendance numbers have bounced back given that overseas holidays are not an option in 2021?
How many jobs have been lost regarding this decision?
What is clear is that public sentiment has delivered its own verdict on Mr Marshall’s decision and it may result in several job loss at the next state election in 2022 .