So FIA President Jean Todt has managed to get himself named as a “special envoy” for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. That in itself is interesting in that it is not an official United Nations job, which I believe was the original plan. The other key point is that Ban will only be the UN Secretary-General until the end of 2016 and so Todt will need to keep working on his contacts if he is to keep a UN-linked role.
The job he has been given was described as being “to assist the UN Secretary General in mobilizing sustained political commitment towards road safety” and to “advocate and raise awareness about the United Nations road safety legal instruments, and share established road safety good practices, through his participations in global and regional conferences on road safety” and to “generate funding for advocacy efforts through strategic partnerships between the public, private and non-governmental sectors”. Cutting through the waffle, Todt is to tell people that the UN is doing things about road safety and – this is perhaps the key – to raise money for the programmes. This will take time and the FIA must therefore consider whether or not this will impact on his ability to run the federation as it should be run. The FIA’s statutes say that the organisation should work towards “affordable, safe, and clean motoring” and promote “the fair and equitable running of motor sport competitions”. It is no secret that in the summer of 2013 Todt signed away the FIA’s rights to make unilateral decisions in F1, handing this over to a body called the F1 Strategy Group, on which the FIA has six votes, compared to six votes for the commercial rights holder (read Bernie Ecclestone) and six votes for a selection of teams. Since then the FIA has been virtually invisible in F1 and the sport has descended into a mess because no-one can change anything of note.
In my opinion, in the end, Todt’s FIA presidency will be defined by this agreement. He obviously has bigger ambitions outside the sport, but he seems to forget that when it comes to the image of the FIA, its only real impact on the general public is in relation to Formula 1. Its other functions are basically invisible to all but a few worthies in motor clubs around the world. In addition the sport provides the federation with more than 90 percent of its revenues, yet at the same time when it comes to voting, the mobility clubs (many of them very rich organisations) outnumber the sporting clubs by a considerable margin, which means that candidates for the FIA Presidency in the future are much more likely to come from the mobility clubs than from the sport. This creates a real problem because the sporting clubs are, in effect, powerless and when it comes to the next negotiation over money (whenever that may be) the federation will be in a much weaker position when it comes to demanding money. The only real hope for the future is an investigation by the European Commission which could order these arrangements to be scrapped. It remains to be seen whether this will happen, but there have been rumours to that effect for months. The last time the FIA found itself in such a position was back in 1978 when Jean-Marie Balestre led a campaign to create the FISA, in order to re-establish the authority of the FIA over the sport. This ended up with full sporting, financial, administrative and judicial independence and that remained the case until 1993 when Max Mosley rolled the two organisations back together again.
Could the same happen again? Club politics is generally conducted behind closed doors but there is clearly a lot of unhappiness with the way things have been going.
Todt is up for re-election at the end of 2017.