The FIA gathered for the 2016 FIA Sport Conference and discussed the motorsport accessibility centered around social responsibility topics. They included:
- Women in motorsport
- Disabled participation in motorsport
- Fan accessibility at events such as Rallycross
- Promoting STEM programs through education
I watched a video of the session in which a panel discussed these topics and they echo the sentiments that I read over at Motosport from the mouth of FIA president Jean Todt who said:
“To have it sustainable,” Todt asserted. “It can never be excluded that there will people who will be saying that it is damaging society.
“That’s why you have to be very careful on safety and public opinion is very important. Pollution and environmental, it has to be politically correct.
“We have a responsibility of doing that. It is not only about passion. Passion is for a limited amount of people, but they are not the majority.”
An interesting note that was made by Lena Gade and her preconceptions about what her role in the sport was and how she would be viewed if she made errors.
For the FIA to have groups that look at these kinds of issue—sustainability, women in motorsport, disabled participation and disabled fan access at events—is a task the FIA feel is a real focus for the future. This sends a positive message about their social responsibility.
I’ve no issue with that if this is something they feel is lacking in their efforts. There are two ways to view this though.
The total number of females desiring to run race teams in the WEC and Formula 1 are most likely smaller in number than the total fan base of either series The same could be said of the total number of young people who view STEM as their best chance of forging a career instead of the arts, legal, healthcare, design, advertising/marketing, public relations, and trade skills such as welding, fabricating, CNC operation, and more. All of these skills are deployed on the world of motorsport every day. Those that do enter STEM programs with the goal of working at Porsche’s motorsport team are far smaller in number than the fan base of the series.
My point? These topics, no matter how noble they may be, are exceptions to the rule that sustain the very series in which they are orbiting. They are the exceptions in each case when compared to the millions who turn the wheels of WEC, Formula 1, Formula E and other series.
The number of fans watching the Formula 1, WEC , Formula E, Rally cross or WRC series far outnumber the folks who may be female trying to find a career in the sport of disabled who wish to participate in racing or students who want to improve their chances thought STEM programs. They are the rule, not the exception. Jean Todt said:
“Each championship has to be addressed. It’s a part of life, whatever you do you must never take things for granted. The motivation is always whatever you do is to be ambitious and to try to do better. We must highlight each single activity and our responsibility and try to see how we do it better.
“If you take each championship from one to 10, none is at 10,” he said. “Some may be at five, some at eight, so [the goal is] to get each of them from where we are to 10.”
I believe the FIA would do well to consider the rule when trying to make a series a 10 and focus on the revenue stream that drives its wheels. Should they govern to the exception and not the rule or vice versa? I don’t believe so but I do think they need to right-size their resources and while it may be nice to hear the FIA gather and talk about social responsibility, as the millions upon millions of fans out there, I think we’d like to hear how they’re going to actually improve the racing series we like. No offense to fan access or students who benefit from STEM programs but there seems to be a big issue with the health and vitality of each series right now and without them, none of the FIA’s social responsibility program will amount to very much.
I maintain you can certainly have STEM programs, and programs for women in motorsport as well as programs for disabled folks to participate and attend events. No question about it, they are noble charters. I also know that the FIA has a new Concorde Agreement coming, the 2017 regulation changes and serious erosion of its viewership in many series such as F1 and WRC. It’s not a zero sum game, they can do both effectively but Todt is rarely a visible person and the few times we do see/hear from him, he is usually talking about social responsibility leaving one to believe that he doesn’t view the erosion of each series and the competitive marketplace for sports entertainment very clearly. Making any of the FIA sanctioned series a 10 isn’t solving for all of the exceptions, it’s solving for the rule—the exceptions will naturally thrive in a healthy sport.