The globalization of motor racing

SEPTEMBER 19, 2001

The globalization of motor racing

The recent suggestion that by the FIA President Max Mosley that there should be a summit between all the national sporting authorities in the federation to discuss the globalization of motor sport has been greeted favorably by most of the member clubs of the organization. Since the reorganization of the FIA there has been no gathering for just the sports bodies as the FIA General Assembly consists of all the automobile clubs as well. There is a strong feeling amongst the sporting clubs that as the sport is generating the money for all activities at the FIA, then there should be more investment from the federation in the sport itself rather than in Mosley's pet projects such as road safety, the environment and so on. But clearly a balance has to be struck as the FIA cannot spend all of its money on racing. And while the annual income which is guaranteed by the establishment of the FIA Foundation is a huge sum of money - in the region of $15m a year - this will not go far if it is used to fund the rebuilding of race circuits.

The question that is currently being discussed is what should be on the agenda of the globalization meeting and where discussions can go in the future.

There is no doubt that many of the FIA members clubs find it hard to accept that the big European clubs have such a strong grip on the major FIA championships but it is difficult to change that situation because of the economic power of these clubs. Members clubs such as Venezuela or Kazakhstan may have ambitions but they do not have the money to build international-level racing facilities. Countries like South Africa may have the facilities but do not have the economic stability to fund the fees necessary for a major event, while in other parts of the world political instability means that events cannot be held. The smaller clubs argue that the FIA should help them to spread motor racing around the world. The problem with that is that the FIA's budget would not stretch to the construction of racing circuits. This has led some delegates to argue that Mosley leased the commercial rights to F1 far too cheaply. There is a counter argument that if other championships can be built up sufficiently they can generate more income for the FIA.

The problem is finding new series that the world wants to watch, establishing what commercial rights exist and who owns them and then building on that. This takes time. The World Rally Championship has helped the spread of events around the world but increasingly the smaller countries are being pushed out with Germany (which already has two Grands Prix) now in line for a World Rally event and the teams involved very keen to get into the United States of America.

Events in other less high-profile series do not generate enough income to make them worthwhile and so truck racing, hillclimbs, rallycross, autocross and regional rally championships are all that is left. Cross country rallying is generally restricted to desert areas while historic events only take place in countries which have people with enough money own such machinery. There is potential in international Formula 3 with events in Macau, Korea and, if all goes to plan, the United Arab Emirates as well but otherwise the smaller clubs struggle to make any impact.

There is an argument that discussions over globalization will end up as debates about the FIA's financing and its structure. Should the central federation be helping the small clubs or should market forces be allowed to rule. And is there a championship which could be introduced that would have stature and would bee cheap enough to go to places which up to now have been excluded from the international scene.

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