GLOBETROTTER

Call the commissioner!

The Agence France Presse story this morning about Max Mosley going to court in Paris against the News of the World over its allegations of a Nazi-style sex orgy sums up the problem that F1 is facing with the Mosley Scandal.

"Formula One boss Max Mosley has filed a lawsuit in Paris ... " it begins.

The very first word of the scandal, on the front page of the fateful edition of the News of the World, was "F1" and so there is no argument about the damage that has been done.

Formula One is actually a company name. It is a commercial group that generates income from a sport called Formula 1. Max Mosley is not the boss of Formula One. That is the job belonging to Bernie Ecclestone. Max Mosley is the chief representative of the FIA, the organisation which owns the Formula 1 World Championship and which allows (in exchange for payment) the Formula One group to exploit F1 on a commercial basis.

This is the background.

The reality is that Mosley is seen as the boss of F1 whether he is or not. Formula 1 is exciting to newspaper readers. The FIA is not. Thus Mosley's activities reflect on F1, as much as they reflect on the FIA. And, as a result of this widespread misinterpretation, F1 is being damaged by the Mosley Scandal - whether it is fair or not. One needs only to read blogs that accompany many of the Internet news stories about F1 these days to see that fans do not understand, nor probably care, about the difference.

The question of what is best for Formula 1 means different things to different people. There is widespread agreement that Ecclestone has done a remarkable job since he took control of the commercial rights back in the 1980s. Some argue he has taken too much for himself and should be reined back. Mosley did the original deals and if that is not considered to be fair then he is the man who must take the blame. If there are ways to renegotiate such deals then it is up to the FIA to go down that path if they consider it sufficiently important. Others do not begrudge Ecclestone the profits as he has made many others rich as well and has built up the sport brilliantly. The teams have had many disputes with him over who gets what percentages of the profits, but these are eventually settled. In principle teams now get 50% of all Formula One group income.

Where there are serious worries is about what happens in the future. Ecclestone is a man who may get his kicks from doing deals and making money, but somewhere deep down inside him is a man who still has a passion for the sport. CVC Capital Partners, who will one day take over, are money men who buy and sell companies in order to make themselves and their investors richer.

To them it is not important whether they are selling soap powder or racing cars. If there is any passion for the sport, it has yet to be communicated. In truth, CVC has done precious little communication on any subject, preferring to leave Ecclestone to run things for them. For the passionate people on the F1 world this is a source of disquiet and some prefer the idea of a robust buccaneer like Ecclestone rather than corporate types.

What is of key importance in Formula 1 is that the sport remains a good place for companies to invest, a good show but also a sport that retains its integrity. F1 grew to be successful and generated a vast motorsport industry by being the showcase for engineering innovation and ingenuity. It was always a question of the survival of the fittest. Constant competition not only provoked technological breakthrough but also weeded out the companies which were not meant for success. As a result the industry was never able to stagnate. Every aspect of a racing car was examined constantly and people came to watch because of it. The Grand Prix in any country was and remains the biggest race of the year. Getting F1 on to international television was the spark that created the commercial opportunities that exist today and the model is so successful that the world's car manufacturers and global sponsors have now adopted the sport.

It has become very expensive and in order to keep down costs there has long been restriction on what engineers can do. There have been many fights along the way and these have become more serious as the profits and the pressure have grown.

The FIA believes, rightly in my opinion, that it should be an independent regulator, with the right to run the sport as it sees fit and to balance the demands of the commercial world with those of the sport. It is not an easy job, but at the same time it is not a job that requires an overbearing presence. The FIA needs to be trusted: its staff must be respected and it must always be seen to be fair. The one thing that the FIA cannot afford is to have people doubting its independence, its fairness and its integrity. There is no need for it to be involved in high-profile disputes.

Mosley has done a decent job over the years but he has also created much division. His work on safety has been impressive and while not everyone has agreed with all of his rules changes, the current moves towards budget-capping, renewable energy systems and a reduction of waste are an intelligent way to move F1 forward, retaining the image of ground-breaking technology without pricing everyone out of the sport. The F1 teams are not easy to negotiate with, but as bigger corporations replace the buccaneers of yesteryear, there is a much better understanding that the sport needs to work together more than it does.

Creating consensus and stability is much better than dictating the future.

When one looks at F1 from the corporate viewpoint - a view that is typified by Sir Jackie Stewart - one can see that the Mosley Scandal is something that the sport absolutely does not need. In the corporate world, when there is a scandal the executives resign to save the companies further trouble. In corporate eyes, therefore, Mosley's decision to stay on was not good news.

Mosley argues that what is important is stability and continuity. He says that he wants to oversee the changeover to new people.

Part of what he says is true but stability is just a part of the answer. The FIA needs to be perceived to be independent and respected for its independence.

One can argue that people who rise through clubs and federations are the wrong kind of people to take on these roles because these organisations have changed. Once they were run by princes, counts, viscounts and barons but as the influence of the aristocracy has faded so the club world has been won over by wealthy men who have ambitions which they cannot fulfil in their regular lives. They tend to be very political.

This has certainly been true of the last two FIA Presidents, who have overseen the sport for more than 30 years between them.

Mosley argues that the FIA will tear itself apart if he is thrown out. There is only one way to find out if that is a true reflection on the federation.

And some would argue that if that is the case, then the FIA does not deserve to enjoy any rights to oversee its primary championship and a new system would then be needed.

However, I believe that the FIA does have enormous value but that it would be best-served with a president in a non-executive role. This would allow the club presidents to enjoy the fruits of the recognition they crave, without needing to play significant roles in running the sport or the mobility side of the federation. One might evoke a similar system to the model used in many European countries where a President and a Prime Minister work side by side. In the case of the FIA it would require two Prime Ministers: one for touring and for sport. I think the President should be a titular head and should do the official duties; leaving the others to administer the sport and tourism activities.

But I think that F1 should be separated from the sporting side.

F1 needs to be run by someone in a powerful but semi-autonomous position.

Formula 1 is a sport and a business and all the stakeholders should have a say in the identity of this person. We have seen over the years that large committees do not work and that has led to much frustration and much manoeuvring to get things done. This is not the way to do it.

In baseball they have a system whereby the team owners choose the "Baseball Commissioner". He is supposed to be a person from outside the sport with no vested interests. The role was created after a scandal back in 1919 when eight members of the Chicago White Sox team were banned from baseball for intentionally losing the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. The idea of a commissioner gave baseball new credibility and has since been adopted by many other sports.

The question is really only who should have a say in this appointment. To my mind the best way to achieve that is for there to be a body that exists only to elect the commissioner. This body should have representation from all stakeholders of the sport. And I do not mean just the teams, the commercial rights holder, the federation, the sponsors, the drivers and the manufacturers. It should also include the circuits and, in my opinion, the media as well as we are stakeholders also. These people should be elected from within their own groups. If a group cannot agree on a candidate then they should not have a vote.

This body should be no more than 15 people and it should elect its own chairman. It should pick a suitable candidate for the job of commissioner and then disappear until it is needed again five years later, at which point the job done by the commissioner would be assessed and a decision made as to whether to renew the appointment. A commissioner would have the administration he sees fit, a role that was carefully defined and areas in which he had total control. There would be sufficient checks and balances to avoid too much patronage and croneyism.

One can hope that whatever happens the result of the Mosley Scandal is something positive. Formula 1 is not only successful but it is packed with potential to grow even more. To do that it needs to be free of the constant arguing that slows down progress, but at the time it needs to avoid dictatorships and the problems that develop as a result.

Hiring a commissioner seems like the best option.

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