To say that other sports will suffer the effects of sponsorship reduction due to the formation of the 1 Malaysian F1 team is not right.

For they will have to learn from the exploits from the F1 team as well as the Asean Basketball League and improve their approach towards sponsors, rather then waiting for handouts from sponsors as has been the practice in the past.

That is the conclusion of Dato Tony Fernandes when posed with the question that there was a possibility of traditional sponsors of Malaysian sports inclining towards the F1 venture at the expense of the more traditional sports.

“I do not think it is a question of the sponsors moving towards the F1 team just because we have our own team,” said Tony when met at the naming of the title sponsors for the Asean Basketball League.

“Even in the basketball league we had to market it and make the sponsors believe in the objective and the return of investments.”

“So really the situation today calls for a lot of hard work and the right strategy if you want people to part with their money. It is no longer a case of just knocking on doors of friends and hoping for some cash.

“The mindset of those in the national associations need to change and one just has to look at the Air Asia model in terms of looking at the bigger picture no matter how hopeless the cause may seem to be.”

On the cost factor and the many speculations, with some even saying that RM1 billion was needed to fund the Malaysian F1 team participation, Tony scoffed at the suggestions.

“It is a costly thing – but good things cost of lot of money. I know there have been much speculations as to the actual cost of putting up the team,” contends Tony.

“It will cost something in the region of RM150 million to get the car out onto the track for the first race and another RM350 million to last the whole season. What other figures you hear about have not come from me.”

Tony said that it takes hard work to convince others to part with their money and in sponsorship it is always the case of approaching the same friends for money when it comes to sports. And this has to change if the sports organisations harbour hopes of convincing sponsors.

When I started my airline (Air Asia), it was with two planes and we gradually built it up to 82 planes – and now it’s a wonderful brand, serving some 200 million of the Asean population,” said Tony.

“My saying is that you pay for what you get: Formula One reaches enormous audiences, motivating enormous masses of people. There are not many sporting events that can create that, so the bottom line is that you pay for what you get.

“If you are successful the rewards will be 50 times more then the investment. The question is if we will be successful – that’s on everybody’s mind.

“I started my airline with $250,000 and everyone said ‘he’s nuts and mad’. So I got used to these kind of notions. I think we will have a good run and in years to come we will slowly build ourselves up.”

Read the story about the ABL below

The first pan-ASEAN professional basketball league was officially launched Monday with organizers announcing the opening match between Indonesia’s Satria Muda BritAma and the Philippine Patriots will be staged in Jakarta on Oct. 10.

Malaysian aviation tycoon Tony Fernandes launched the league, saying he in hopes to boost the sport in the 10 countries comprising the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The ASEAN Basketball League will feature six professional teams from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand and stretch from October through February.

Basketball is not very popular in most ASEAN countries, and only Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore already had professional teams, organizers said. All have national teams. Singapore entered a team in Australia’s National Basketball League but withdrew after last season for financial reasons.

“I think that there is a lot of skeptics out there … (but) this is a watershed moment for ASEAN sports,” Fernandes, who heads regional budget carrier AirAsia, told reporters.

All teams will compete in a home and away league format with knockout stages until the final. The first Kuala Lumpur game is on Oct. 14 with the KL Dragons playing the Brunei Barracudas.

The Singapore Slingers and the Thailand Tigers are the other two teams. Fernandes said he hoped more Southeast Asian teams will join the league in 2010 to eventually expand it to some 20 teams.

He said the startup capital is some $10 million and U.S. company General Electric was the title sponsor for the next three years.