EICMA was a little strange in that, although I've heard numbers were up on last year, it actually seemed fairly quiet. In the past it's always been something of a challenge to accompany riders around the show but we had very little trouble with Davide Giugliano this year, and Chaz Davies noticed the same thing. I can't help but think it's another sign of dwindling interest in the SBK camp, coming on the back of increasingly low crowd figures at this season's race events. The only country in which we saw a decent crowd was Thailand, and that was due, from what I can understand, to a well-planned, nationwide marketing campaign during the months prior to the race. However they did it, other track organisers should take note, though I'm guessing in most cases a lack of budget is to blame for the general lack of publicity... I cannot believe what a change we've seen in just the last 5 or 6 years or so. I understand we're never going to get a crowd to Qatar, but if we look at the official spectator figures released by Dorna at the end of each weekend, numbers have continued to drop even in Spain, Holland and the UK, countries that not so long ago were attracting much larger audiences. And this is all while the UK continues to draw around 50,000 people to almost every national BSB round, beating the SBK figures hands down!
Surely this all comes down to marketing, ticket pricing and the like. Some pre-event advertising, even on a small scale, in the local towns, the local papers, especially in places that attract tourists such as Jerez and Misano, would surely make a difference (simply compare the level of advertising we saw a few years ago vs. what is visible now) and would not have to cost the earth.
Make the event a 'family-affair', in line with the BSB model, with contained prices and added value initiatives inside the paddock to give the fans as many reasons as possible to come along and see what SBK is all about. Granted that at certain SBK events, the Italian rounds for example, the paddock certainly appears to be pretty packed but I wonder how many of those fans have actually paid for tickets. I'm betting the large majority have received a paddock pass, free of charge, from one of the teams that, in turn, receive a quantity of free passes for their sponsors and partners from the championship organisers. And so this cannot be a real reflection of the success of any given event. (In Thailand on the other hand the paddock was empty but 80,000 odd people were in attendance, out in the grandstands, having presumably paid for tickets.)
The racing continues to be as electrifying as ever before, but less and less people are tuning in to watch on TV or turning up at the gates to watch live. How have we seen such a dramatic (down) turn in such a short space of time?? Here's hoping we soon see another turnaround, one that can take this great championship back in the right direction!