I wanna be electing…

So, here’s the thing. Imagine the British government for a minute. Don’t get too depressed, focus and stay with me.

Leading the whole thing is the Prime Minister, He’s elected as an MP by the voters in his local constituency and then chosen as his Party’s leader by the MPs in that party. Should his party win a General Election, he becomes Prime Minister. As a result, he’s removable, by his party and/or his local electorate.

Each of the MPs in the parliament also depends on their own local electorate for their positions, although power in government can be given and taken away by the Prime Minister, as he sees fit.

All pretty straight-forward and, if the MPs seem to be a more bungling bunch of inept, money-grubbing sleaze-bags then is deemed desirable by the electorate, then every four years or so, they can be voted out of office.

Compare and contrast to the FIA.

The FIA is funded by racing licence holders. Not exclusively, perhaps, but to at least some degree. And for the purposes of simplicity, let’s handily ignore the FIA’s attempts to set itself up as some quasi-NGO, responsible for the safety of every occupant of mechanised vehicles on the planet and concentrate on its first, self-appointed, remit, which is as the governing body of world motorsport.

To licence-holders, the FIA is like the government is to tax-payers. It takes your money and tells you what you can and can not do. But that’s where the similarity really ends (if we ignore trough-in-snout antics.)

The President is elected by members of the FIA but, unlike the British Prime Minister, cannot actually lose his seat, by being voted out by his local electorate.

I must admit that I don’t know whether the national representatives in the FIA can be voted in by licence-holders or not. All I can say is that during a number of years holding a British licence, I have never had a voting form for the President of our ASN (local sporting body), the MSA.

British licence fees are paid to the MSA. The MSA is thus un-elected body that takes and spends competitors’ money as it administers the sport in the UK and also has a say (notionally on the competitors’ behalf) in FIA decisions.

So, licence-holders have no say in how their sport is run and represented – nationally and internationally – despite paying for it.

Where am I going with this, you might well ask.

Well, I have been thinking about the FIA Presidency.

Max Mosley has said that he won’t seek re-election – which doesn’t necessarily mean that if the FIA votes for him, he’ll refuse the office – but, either way, it seems that there will be an election for a new President.

Several aspects of this bother me.

Firstly: non-elected (by competitors) representatives in the FIA will vote for a non-elected (by competitors) President. I can’t think of a democratic governing body where the titular head is chosen by non-elected ‘representatives.’

Secondly: Formula 1’s main paymasters (the competitors) have absolutely no say in the process, despite spending vast amounts of money supporting the FIA’s flagship event. In national governments, major industry helps to fund the running of the country but doesn’t vote in the leadership elections as corporate entities. However, at least SOMEBODY votes for the government.

Thirdly: FIA representatives do not vote according to either the wishes of the competitors that they represent (except by accident, as there is no communication on any subject) nor to the number of competitors that they represent. So that, say, India, holds as much sway as the UK, Germany, France or the USA, all of which have vastly more licence-holders and hugely larger generic motorsport industries. That’s like London and a small town in Wales having exactly the same voting power, despite wildly-differing populations.

So, why is the FIA not genuinely democratic?

Why is the FIA President not, firstly, individually elected to a national ASN by licence holders in his own country?

Why, indeed, are ASN members not voted for by licence holders at all?

Oh, I know… it’d all be too hard to organise.

Except that they manage to have democratic government elections in India, despite having a population of over 900,000,000. So organising a vote for all the racing licence holders in the UK would be a mere bagatelle in comparison.

Well then, it’d cost too much money, surely.

British licence holders could pay an extra £1 per annum to cover their ASN elections. That would cover the organisational fees. Let’s face it, if the Morris Minor Owners’ Club (membership approx 50,000) manages to do it annually, is the MSA really telling me that it’s not possible to do in professionally-run motorsport? As I recall, the FIA’s already bulging coffers were swollen by $100,000,000 after the McLaren fine, so there’d be plenty of money for implementing genuine democracy.

If the will was there.

As regards the actual voting within the FIA, again, delegates should carry at least SOME weight proportional to the size of the electorate, so that big motorsporting nations (who WILL be affected by FIA decisions) should have more sway than small ones (who won’t.)

In fact, I’d go further than that. Not only should racing licence holders be allowed to vote in ASN elections and be accounted for in FIA elections but so should holders of entrant’s licences. Then ALL the people who pay the bills would also be represented, whether it’s a small company sponsoring a junior driver or a major motor manufacturer in Formula One, as well as the drivers themselves.

There’s no good reason why the FIA should be allowed to continue in the 21st Century as a mediaeval institution. All competitors pay for their sport to be governed, yet have absolutely no say in HOW it’s governed.

That’s not good enough when it’s your taxes funding the government and certainly not good enough when it’s the pittance you have left AFTER paying your taxes, funding the FIA.

The new FIA President – be it Max (again), Ari Vatanen, Jean Todt or someone else – must address the total lack of democracy as an absolute priority.

Not holding my breath here…



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4 responses to “I wanna be electing…

  1. David

    I agree about democracy, but to me, a far more important issue is that of bias. Many out there feel Max is biased towards Ferrari. Jean Todt, regardless of how he behaves, will continue that feeling. Therefore, Todt is a terrible idea.
    Vatanen would at least be unbiased (although I am aware he has other issues). The new president should also be a moderniser – and I am thinking of things like officiating and scrutineering rather than cars and circuits. That kinda rules out Vatanen.
    Who else do we get to choose from?

    • martinhaven

      Ah, and there’s the rub… we don’t. In fact, no-one outside the self-congratulatory circle of FIA members gets to choose.

      As I pointed out, no-one who pays for this circus gets to have even the remotest say in what happens and how their money is spent…

  2. Anthony

    I believe Ari is a good choice. I was impressed with his interview on Mid-Week Motorsports. For us we are niche public when it comes to racing and even further niche those who are interested in who the FIA President will be.

    Other than getting first rate seating at F1 races, does anybody else understand just what he’s suppose to do?

    Anyway Ari did he was in favor of doing more with marshalling and safety. Lord knows MWM has been beating that drum coming from the what I think is the best ran series the ALMS. They are even going to try and clear up the safety car issues that kills a good GT2 battle more often that not by giving 1-2 cars a 3/4 of a lap lead.

    Anyway, I think he would do well and doesn’t have a vested interest in F1 which in turn would be better fro WRC, WTCC and FIA GT.

    F1 has had lots of bad PR the past few weeks, not that it would upset its fan base too much.

  3. It’s a lovely rant, Martin, but it’s built on a couple of misconceptions.

    The FIA isn’t a motorsports organization that dabbles in motoring issues, it’s a motoring organization that has become obsessed with motorsports.

    Take a look at the membership pages – http://www.fia.com/en-GB/the-fia/member-clubs/europe/Pages/GreatBritain.aspx

    Things were better when the sporting side was left to FISA and the FIA did what its members really paid them to do.

    Even if it was purely a motorsports organization, its funding would come not from license holders but from spectators and TV viewers and that’s who it should answer to.

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