Motorsport as a whole is known for its passionate, knowledgeable fans. We are told this after every motorsport event around the world so why is it that fans are on the outside banging on the glass about the changes happening inside our sport with no real voice of their own for change and is it time that fans got a proper voice within the sport itself?
We can moan about changes sure and send some tweets or other communications to the series asking them to change it back but it is all done in retrospect. The decisions have already passed by then and whilst this approach of complaining on social media can be effective, it is also frustrating and damages the confidence in series and the wider sport. Could instead of embarrassing climb downs by the powers that be in our sport, or ignoring fan opinion all together the sport adapt its decision making process to accommodate input from fans beyond narrow in scope fan surveys so that the decisions CEOs of series claim are made for fans genuinely are?
Football isn’t a sport I follow but it does provide a potential solution. West Ham United has a Supporters Advisory Board. The club explains this as a 25 member committee which represents various key groups of supporters. A few examples of roles within this committee include representation by a youth and a senior member representing the under 25s and over 65s respectfully, a member representing woman, another representing the interests of disabled fans, supporters club representatives, families and season ticket holders and various other representatives.
This apparently is a more common idea that I thought as a motorsport example does exist in the USA, at Bristol Motor Speedway. Bristol have a 30-40 member board representing various demographics and groups that meet during NASCAR race weekends at the Speedway and serve a term of four NASCAR events at Bristol before rotating off the board. The group also uses social media to communicate ideas away from these meetings and provides feedback to the Speedway on a variety of issues and ideas for improvement. An executive committee also oversees the rotating advisory group, made up of former advisory members chosen by Bristol Motor Speedway.
If this was to work in motorsport on a wider scale. Some challenges would need to be overcome and the scope of what a fan advisory board could influence would need to be defined. A decision would need to be made on whether the board sat within the sanctioning body and therefore presented feedback to the FIA or FIM or whether it would be based within the commercial rights holders organisations like F1 or MotoGP or WEC and represent the views of fans associated with their activities. This is less of an issue in a series like Indycar were the technical and sporting regulations are based within the same organisational structure.
I would suggest the concept would be more effective within the framework of presenting feedback to the commercial rights holders of various series as more of the gimmicks and unusual decisions in our sport appear to arise from them. Additionally the commercial rights holders are who we as fans have direct engagement with as it is them who we pay to attend events or view and interact with our sport.
You would then need to decide the composition of the board and size of it. Ideally it would include many of the same key groups from the West Ham example with some roles added which are specifically relevant to motorsport as a whole and also to specific series. For example a fan advisory group focused on World Rallying would need particularly members that wouldn’t be relevant in F1 and vice versa.
The other challenge in forming this composition is that our sport is global and so you would want international knowledgeable fan representation, rather than from one specific nation and therefore meeting in a fixed location would be particularly challenging. Therefore you would need to establish how the board could communicate and what technology could be used to achieve this in addition to ensuring that an agenda could be communicated effectively to the representatives.
I know that the series wouldn’t have to listen to every idea that came out of a fan advisory board and I do not for a second expect it would solve all of the sports ills. It would however, at least provide a deeper more constructive environment and crucially a voice for communication between representatives of fans and the series in a semi formal environment as opposed to the the arms length relationship that currently exists between fans and series organisers and/or governing bodies. It may also at least help to prevent at least one of the recent PR gaffes which have occurred in our sport over recent years if a fan representative could say ‘hang on, I don’t think this will be popular with the fans I represent and this is why…’ and have that feedback taken on-board.
Would you like more fan representation inside our sport? Does it even need formal fan representation or should we all just stop whining as much and let the commercial rights holders get on with it? Would an idea like this even work in motorsport? What do you think?