APRIL 8, 2008
Ruminations from the rubble of a presidency
The full effect of the Mosley Scandal is still to be seen. FIA President Max Mosley is clinging on to office and there are few outside the FIA who understand the logic of why he is still there. This has been widely commented on in newspapers around the world. In similar scandals involving public figures, those concerned resigned as quickly as possible, if only to limit the attacks made on them and to protect the organisations that they previously represented.
The Times, which has been the most outspoken critic of Mosley throughout this affair, says that he has "amazed and annoyed by refusing to accept that his position is hopeless". The Independent says that "in the name of all that is credible and decent about the sport the time has come for him to bow to majority opinion and step down". It adds that a president "who is fast becoming a pariah surely cannot command the respect that the role demands". The Daily Telegraph says that he has become "a ridiculous figure in perpetuity".
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Mosley has a perfect right to take all the legal actions he cares to take, if he feels that he has been treated unfairly. However there is a strong argument that it would be better for this to be action taken as a private individual rather than as a top official in a global organisation. One cannot argue that it is private matter when it will clearly take time and energy to fight the law suits.
The whole crisis should not be about the FIA, but the federation has moved into the firing line. It is now perceived as an organisation that is not in control of its own destiny. This may be harsh and there may be much going on behind the scenes, but the overall perception is not good, particularly as Mosley has defied the wishes of several of the biggest clubs, notably the AAA, which boasts more than 50% of the FIA membership. Mosley is the public face of the federation and it is not a question of whether the federation thinks Mosley has a right to privacy, but rather whether the clubs want to be represented by him or not. Only a handful of clubs have said what they really think and Mosley has shrugged them off or ignored them. We are told by people who do not wish to be named that the only way to remove Mosley from office is with a resolution of the General Assembly and that while this may be slow, it is how FIA-style democracy works. The statutes are as they are and the FIA is paying a heavy price for that. When Mosley goes it would be wise for the member clubs to look carefully at its rules, to ensure that such a thing can never happen again.
We are told that it is very unlikely that Mosley will survive as there is now a resolve amongst FIA members to see the back of him.
We have even been told that Mosley himself thinks he cannot survive and is simply trying to leave on his own terms, rather than being sacked.
Frankly, it is too late to be searching for a dignified way out.
Whichever way one looks at the scandal, Mosley's downfall was based either on extreme arrogance or bad judgement. Perhaps a trap was set, but no-one made him fall into it. A man in his position must be aware of his responsibilities and avoid the pitfalls that have tumbled countless public figures in the past. Mosley fell victim to the first rule of politics: don't get caught. In order to sit in judgement on others there is an obligation to set high standards. How many judges around the world have fallen in that way? Trying to adopt a tone of moral indignation about an international conspiracy is not a sensible option when your trousers are (metaphorically-speaking) around your ankles.
And therein lies the crux of the matter.
In the F1 paddock there are many who are not bothered about the sexual escapades listed so graphically in the newspapers. There were others who do not even care about the alleged Nazi symbolism. The chief worry is that the office of the FIA President has been ridiculed.
The argument that Mosley has stayed in office because he was afraid that the FIA would crumble without him is a further example of arrogance.
There are plenty of sensible people within FIA circles who can do the job.
Mosley has done much for the sport and for the world of the automobile, but the last few days have undermined it all.
It is perhaps a tragedy in the true meaning of the word: a drama in which the main character is brought to ruin as a consequence of a tragic flaw or a moral weakness.
These are sad and distressing times for the sport. They may also be sad and distressing for Mosley, but facing up to the realities is not something that should not be done at the expense of a sport in which are invested the aspirations and passions of millions across the world.
By not resigning Mosley has left himself open to the charge that he cares nothing for the sport.
And that is yet another reason why he must resign.