There were a lot of stories circulating in Singapore about a possible third candidate in the FIA Presidential election. At the moment there are two: current incumbent Jean Todt and former FIA Foundation boss David Ward. Todt has yet to produce a manifesto. The word is that a third candidate could be Mohammed bin Sulayem, the 51-year-old President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE. There is no question that Bin Sulayem is ambitious and would like to be the first FIA President from the Middle East but it had been thought that his appointment in June as chairman of a new Motor Sport Development Task Force was in exchange for his agreement to support Todt in December. It seems, however, that this might not be the case.
A spokesman for Bin Sulayem has told The Gulf News that he “is aware of the speculation regarding the FIA Presidency and it can be confirmed that he has been contacted in recent weeks by a number of national sporting authorities from around the world who have expressed a desire for him to run as a candidate. At this stage, he has seen David Ward’s manifesto and has now asked to see Jean Todt’s manifesto as well. Any decision he makes after that will be based on what is best for the FIA going forwards.”
The FIA meetings in Dubrovnik are buzzing with rumours that he will soon make an announcement. There are some who think that Ward’s candidature was to test the water and see the strength of the (quiet) opposition to Todt, but Ward insists this is not the case and says he will go on pushing for the reforms he believes that the FIA needs and will not support another candidate, unless they agree with his policies.
Ward has the disadvantage of being closely associated with former FIA President Max Mosley and many think that if he was elected Mosley would be pulling strings in the background. Ward denies this and says that for some years Mosley has been far more interested in his campaign to change the world’s privacy laws. He is currently taking on Google to try to stop the search engine allowing access to stories about his past adventures. He is also believed to have played a fairly major role in the background during the Leveson Inquiry and has underwritten the legal costs of some of the people who have made claims against Murdoch’s newspapers.
Bin Sulayem was also close to Mosley and was named as an FIA Vice-President after rounding up votes for Mosley in the confidence vote in 2008. He then worked with Todt and hoped to be considered as a possible candidate as Todt’s Deputy President (Sport), replacing Britain’s Graham Stoker, who has been very low profile.
Bin Sulayem is young for the job and something of a maverick but he has considerable influence within the FIA and seems to have a good working relationship with Bernie Ecclestone, which is important as Ecclestone holds considerable sway in the FIA. He will support whichever candidate best suits his motivations, or offers the least threat to the current commercial arrangements.
The number of possible candidates is restricted by the fact that in order to qualify each candidate must produce a list of 26 named supporting clubs, with stipulations about the type of club and the region involved. These lists must include the nominations for President of the Senate, the two Deputy-Presidents, plus 14 Vice-Presidents. No club can be on two different lists and all of them know that if they are on a list that loses they risk not being given future appointments and so a sizeable number decline to be actively involved in the process. One of the stipulations is that each electoral list includes nine National Automobile Clubs (ACNs). There are only 52 of these in total and with some not wishing to commit to anything it is difficult to find enough supporters for even three candidates.
Ward is also proposing a revision of the FIA voting procedures if he is elected to lift these requirements.