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Should supercross become global?

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Rumours have been rife for a few months now that Feld and Monster want to take supercross, the ultimate American motorcycle sport, outside of it’s birthplace and take the series around the world.

Imagine a race at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales, or this weekend’s pre-season supercross races in Australia and France being part of the full supercross world championship that will see all the best riders travel over to compete. It has the ingredients to be really cool, and for those based on the European continent or down under it will be a lot easier to attend the race and for many be the first time to see the stars of supercross do their thing live and in person, experiencing the full program of top level supercross racing.

But it is already causing a difference of opinion in the USA, with Chad Reed in favour and head of Racer X magazine and MX Sports, Davey Coombs wanting supercross to remain in America.

Reed, who sees every side having grown in Australia, before moving to Belgium for a year to race MXGP and finally landing stateside to live his dream of racing supercross said at the press conference for the MEC: “I hope the rumours are true, I hope we (supercross) become international. let’s travel, let’s get on a plane and see what these kids are made of outside the US.”

Chad Reed is on for supercross going global. Pic: Yamaha PR

Chad Reed is on for supercross going global. Pic: Yamaha PR

Meanwhile the counter argument was made by Davey Coombs who runs the biggest MX/SX website in the sport and the outdoor nationals in the US, which would no doubt be affected by an increased supercross schedule. Speaking to Geoff Meyer on MX Large Davey said: I was on the AMA Board of Directors the last time SX wanted to expand to Europe, which was in 2002. I went to all of the races in Geneva, Arnhem, Seville, and I just didn’t see a very good fit. It was incredibly expensive on the teams to move operations across the ocean, and not all of them went.”

Davey also feels the crowds might not show up at overseas races. “The races didn’t really get the crowds, and the idea was soon scrapped in favor of going to Canada, but that didn’t really work out that well either,” he explained. “My understanding is Feld wants to add additional rounds overseas. I am of course in favor of trying new things, but if expansion leads to overlapping SX races with Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross and even MXGP, well, that is obviously problematic. I just personally think this is a really risky idea that could have some unintended consequences for the entire sport.”

Other US media personalities have mentioned they don’t want the globalisation of supercross and this is perhaps also part of the reason they aren’t enamoured with MXGP expanding to the USA, because let’s face it is easier for them just to travel within the US for racing than go outside the country on a regular basis for supercross or MXGP.

The problem for America is this. If supercross expands to 20-25 races a year it will potentially devalue the US Nationals with riders probably dropping out of doing both series or the Nationals having to reduce the amount of races to allow the top supercross riders to compete. What is happening is that the growth of MXGP and SX are squeezing the US Nationals and riders are basically now making a choice of being MX or SX riders.

If you want supercross you go to the states but if you prefer motocross you base yourself in Europe. And that growth in MXGP is something the US industry just don’t want to happen. The press release of the US Nationals still maintains the line, “The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, features the world’s fastest outdoor motocross racers, racing aboard the best bikes each factory offers, on the roughest, toughest tracks in the world.” A not so subtle message to the actual world motocross championship, MXGP, and how it’s viewed in comparison to the US nationals.

GuyB who runs popular website VitalMX posted the following: “If you listen to the jungle drums there are rumours of up to four events like this (US GP) per year. Add to that the rumoured expansion of the supercross side, and you start to wonder if there is an entity (or entities) putting the squeeze on the current National (mx) series. The way some companies are involved, you start wondering what their end game is. Is it to support the sport or steer the sport?”

It is clear the battle lines are being drawn between the US industry, trying to protect their US mx series over the international development of the sport both indoors and out. That is presumably also the reason for the lack of coverage and enthusiasm of MXGP in comparison to supercross and US motocross. The final sentence in GuyB’s quote implies that they (companies involved) are not supporting “the sport”, but surely trying to globalise the sport in motocross and supercross is supporting the sport? They just aren’t exclusively focused on the USA.

The German fans would not doubt love to see  their hero Ken Roczen race a world supercross race in Germany. Pic: Honda

The German fans would not doubt love to see their hero Ken Roczen race a world supercross race in Germany. Pic: Honda

And that is the fine line Feld and Monster are treading here as they try to expand supercross, it is a huge balancing act trying to keep the US industry on-board and introduce the sport to new fans around the world by going to those international cities.

But for the sponsors going global makes sense, it allows international audiences to see their product and that is a big reason why MXGP is so successful recently and have US companies involved.

Eric Peronnard, who helps promote races in the USA and abroad admitted during our interview about the Charlotte MXGP event that US companies enjoy the global exposure MXGP gives. “American motocross and off-road has been flattening the few years due to economy, land-availability and simply cost,” explained Peronnard. “But the rest of the world has been really blooming and it’s crucial now for an American company to be involved in the planet instead of the just the American continent. The numbers are really phenomenal, there are a lot countries really exploding for motocross and doing quite well.”

So maybe this aspect is a reason for Feld and Monster (who have seen the global benefits as a sponsor of MXGP) expanding supercross. But as Davey Coombs pointed out, will the crowds come, especially to European events, when the traditional fanbase is more favourable outdoor racing as opposed to America where they have grown up with motorsport in stadiums with supercross and Nascar etc. The culture and mentality is very different. Indoor racing in Europe is seen as something to do in the winter when you wait for the main sport of motocross to re-start. In America, supercross is by far more important to the riders, teams and fans than motocross.

The UK and France are probably the most interested in US supercross in Europe and those two countries maybe have the best chance of filling stadiums alongside maybe Germnay with Roczen’s success. The NFL of course have already been successful in promoting themselves in the UK. So there is a chance this could work.

Personally on a fan level it would be great if it works as it makes the series more accessible for a greater number of supercross fans. It might be a risk but surely it is a risk worth taking? It can always go back to being exclusively in N.America if it doesn’t work outside that continent on a global level.

But isn’t it time the US industry let go of the nationalism and just supported supercross, MXGP and the US Nationals equally, whether they are exclusively in the US or not is irrelevant. They are the three biggest dirt bike series’ in the world and the more supercross and MXGP go global the better promotion it is for the sport as whole internationally, alongside the best national motocross series in the world – the US nationals.

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