JUNE 6, 2008

African clubs object to Ecclestone remarks

The aftermath of the FIA General Assembly has been fairly messy for the FIA, with a lot of negative criticism about the federation. This has not pleased all concerned and the FIA African Council, a new body that involves the clubs of the African continent, which grew out of the old Sub-Saharan African Touring and Automobile Clubs (SATAC), has written to the F1 Commercial Rights Holder Bernie Ecclestone complaining about remarks he made to Britain's Daily Express about what happened in Paris.

"Just because he got a few more votes from Africa doesn't mean the king of Spain will want to shake his hand," Ecclestone said. "It is going to be very hard for Max to do half a job. He is not as powerful now as he was."

The Africans are not happy with this and according to D N Njoroge, Director General of the AA of Kenya, "the African clubs take great exception in what is clearly derogatory, demeaning and uncalled for attacks on Africa. In more than 30 years of my close relationship with AIT/FIA, this is the first time to come across such subtle and thinly veiled attacks based on ethnicity and we expect withdrawal and apology to Africa if there was no motive behind these remarks."

There are two arguments about democracy in the FIA. The first is that one club gets one vote, not matter whether it has 100 members or whether it has 55 million members. This is the current system. The other argument is that the number of members should count, in which case the smaller clubs would have no say at all against the giants such as the AAA or ADAC.

The African clubs did have a significant effect on the vote, but as FIA members they have the right to a voice. If they were organised by one side or the other, then that is politics. One side was more effective than the other and if that influenced the outcome of the vote then the losers have only themselves to blame. In a democratic institution one accepts and respects the wishes of the majority, as long as there is no evidence of actual corruption. If people refuse to accept the result of a vote, they are in effect rejecting democracy.

The important question in the FIA vote is not how it was achieved, but rather why it happened. If members were willing to take the criticism that has come from supporting Max Mosley, because they believed that it was a necessary evil to defend the FIA from a deliberate external attack, the important question is who was behind the attack and why were they doing it? At the moment no-one seems to know the answer to that question. There are lots of rumours and suspicions but little evidence. If Max Mosley and his investigators can find that out and prove that case, then it will have a huge effect. It may not be enough to save Mosley, for he is probably damaged beyond repair, but it will help understand what has been going on and give the sport the chance to sort out the problems.