A few days ago, in a Qatari airport lounge, I had an interesting conversation with a Rally co-driver. We were discussing stakeholders and institutional governance in motorsport and, specifically, in cross country rally. Peculiarly, for the same car, driver and co-driver, there are three different championships and three different governing bodies (Dakar, Middle East Region ASN and FIA). The discussion focused on the possible involvement of ‘other’ stakeholders, such as, drivers, co-drivers, promoters, teams, manufacturers, televisions as well as ‘other’ institutional actors to meetings. This would enable this sport to be ‘grand’ again and have real success, both commercially and in terms of TV audience. The emphasis of our conversation was on the success of the sport and not of a single championship (such as Dakar, Baja, FIA Cross Country or MENA Rally). The ability to bring together the different stakeholders was addressed as fundamental for making the sport relevant and interesting, enabling different championships to co-exist and co- evolve.
A few days later, the F1 strategy group was held in Paris. The meeting, at which representatives from some F1 Teams ( part of the F1 stakeholders), the FIA president (the institutional governance) and the CEO of Formula One group (the commercial rights holder) were in attendance, was labelled ‘constructive’ and a number of decisions for 2018 and beyond were taken. Specialised magazines covered technical and sporting decisions from this meeting, such as the rejection of the Halo safety device for 2018 in favour of a protection shield. But, a very interesting decision for the sport, possibly the start of some changes in F1, was barely covered by the press and bloggers: ‘Representatives from the non-member teams will now be invited to meetings of the F1 Strategy Group to have access to the discussions, demonstrating the effective commitment of both the FIA and the Commercial Rights Holder to improve transparency in the sport’ (www.fia.com).
What does this decision mean for the future of the sport?
The decision of opening further strategy meetings to non-member teams, is possibly the start of a new vision from the main F1 stakeholders, which academically finds its justification in stakeholder theory. Stakeholder theory is widely accepted and used in organizational management and business. The core idea of stakeholder theory is that organizations that manage their stakeholder relationships effectively will survive longer and perform better than organizations that don’t. Contrarily to other models, for which only formal stakeholders are important in making decisions about the business, this theory argues that there are other parties equally central for the decision making process. These ‘other’ stakeholders, which include customers, suppliers, communities, other institutional bodies (such as EU, local government of city/circuits where the race will happen, advisor to National Industrial Strategy) and even competitors, need to be considered for effective and successful decisions. In fact, collective decision making, with other stakeholders ensures that all the affected parties are considered and listened to, rather than overriding the interests of the ‘core’ group.
Opening the F1 strategy group to non-member teams is the start of a new era that change that the sport needed. By bringing together all stakeholders, from various championships, there is a stronger likelihood that the motorsport industry, particularly F1, will become relevant to society once again, returning it to the ‘grand’ status we know and love.