San Francisco America’s Cup Negotiations on Shaky Ground.


America's Cup in San Francisco?

It’s easier just to say the ‘organisers’ of the America’s Cup these days. The organisers is a collective noun for a group of organisations that now run the event. There is BMW ORACLE, the America’s Cup Event Authority, America’s Cup Race Management and somewhere in the background, almost forgotten and rarely mentioned, the Golden Gate Yacht Club. The organisers then, have the task of finding a venue for the next edition of the Cup.

While it might have seemed obvious that the Golden Gate Yacht Club would want to stage the event in San Francisco, the winning of the event being a proxy for a bidding process – BMW ORACLE have been shopping the host port rights around to the highest bidder. Perhaps it was just to get a good deal from the state of California, or perhaps the ‘organisers’ really do think that the venue should be decoupled from the site of the winning team’s yacht club.

The city of San Francisco though, never entered into a bidding process, like the football World Cup. By BMW ORACLE winning the trophy, the city was obliged to work out how to come up with a deal that worked. Once politicians got involved, it all got a bit slow and pedantic.

Last week, a new ‘lower cost’ option was revealed to the public and once again, BMW ORACLE (sorry – the organisers), have threatened to defend the cup in somewhere like Italy. Stephen Barclay, lead negotiator for the organisers (COO of BMW ORACLE  – not the America’s Cup Event Authority) is not happy with the new options from the city of San Francisco.

Quoted by Richard Gladwell, Barclay said:

‘The disappointing thing from our point of view is that we spent four months negotiating this agreement, conceding points, pushing other points until we reached agreement. That agreement was signed off by the City and Port and forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for their endorsement. A week or ten days ago that agreement was basically taken off the table and we awoke to a new agreement literally sitting in our Inboxes. That new agreement was substantially different from what we had spend four months negotiating, which we had told them was the winning document. The City were told that their new agreement would be rejected.’

While San Francisco might be about to drop the ball, there are big implications for the America’s Cup if the ‘organisers’ choose not to go with the Californian city. Having spent years accusing Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli of selling out the Cup and making it overly commercial, BMW-Or…. the organisers are now offering host city rights for the defence of the cup by the Golden Gate Yacht Club to Italy and the United Arab Emirates.

Do you remember the arguments about the northern and southern hemispheres? Remember how some venues were totally out of the question when raised by Alinghi? Well now Barclay is mentioning places like Australia – so the mutual consent had better be flowing freely amongst challengers.

‘There has been a lot of interest from a lot of different places, Australia is one of them, but that has been coming on for many months. But right now we are focusing on the Cities that we have begun negotiations with, but had shifted to World Series hosting discussions, rather than America’s Cup hosting, as it became clear that San Francisco, in our view had the winning bid. Those are the places that we have and will be re-kindling interest with.’

The Organisers plan to make a venue announcement on the 31st of December 2010.

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