As with any global business, the chap at the top of the tree is going to attract a lot of attention, whether it be positive or negative and there will always have to be a time when they see fit to step down. Now, it’s human nature to not want to let go of your ‘baby’ whether it be your actual son/daughter leaving home, or whether it be that brand or company you’ve built from scratch being bought out by someone.
For some reason, and we’re not sure how – Bernie Ecclestone is still (and rightly so) referred to as the “F1 Ringmaster” – when he’s fast approaching the age of 80… impressive to say the least, but it doesn’t necessarily means it’s correct… or does it?
Firstly, all those Bernie-haters out there, stop, look around and listen up – the sport we all enjoy wouldn’t exist or have anything like the global appeal and audience that it now enjoys without this one little, Andy Warhol lookalike at the controls. We’re not quite sure how but he can be called a genius for taking what was literally some bright chaps with spanners building fast cars to race against each other on a Sunday afternoon with friends and family and friends watching from the track-side and making it a global spectacle with a bigger television audience than any other sporting event. Impressive, especially when you consider the companies and brands involved in the sport – i.e. anyone who’s anyone either is or has been involved at some point. Again, impressive.
The sport, in spite of the global economic downturn is still thriving with new sponsors joining and even new teams making an appearance for the 2010 season. Sure some large companies have left, but that’s got more to do with the fact that they weren’t winning more than that they couldn’t afford it. Impressive.
F1 has been dragged through the mud more than ever in recent years with massively public court cases and controversy – from the world’s biggest fines for McLaren’s Spygate involvement, Max Mosley’s alleged Nazi sexual acts, the rear diffuser argument and of course, the recent Flavio Briatore/Nelson Piquet Singapore Crashgate madness. “dragged through the mud” is putting it lightly, yet somehow the sport carries on and seems largely unaffected by all the negative publicity. Impressive.
So you get the idea – Bernie Ecclestone’s involvement in F1 is no doubt impressive and what we have today is nothing short of remarkable, but as with all great things – they must come to an end at some point and it seems that the time isn’t far away. The Guardian newspaper recently ran an article on cheating in sport and to quote:
“the diabolical funhouse of Formula One – less a sport and more a portable never-ending after party on a yacht peopled by disco-dancing billionaires – which provided the second most jaw-dropping scandal of 2009… Briatore was banned for life but the sport continued to thrum and rev and guitar-solo along with barely a plucked eyebrow raised”
From that, it’s clear that Barney Ronay isn’t a fan of F1, but his opinion is not an isolated one, it’s shared by many and it’s an image the sport needs to shake off if it’s to continue to flourish. A breath of fresh air would do the sport good and maybe that could be the stepping down of Bernie – yes we respect you, but surely it’s time to sit back in your arm chair and try watching the sport from the other side of the bar, so to speak. The recent debacle over the British GP is just one in the line of many silly arguments… over money and power, something that Ecclestone seems to love.
When you have a multi-billion dollar empire and you’re rich beyond your wildest dreams, surely it would be an idea to help out the empire that has made you rich and ensure the teams, circuits and people who make the sport happen get something back – and that includes the fans who are often conned into paying anything from £150 to £500 and more to attend a grand prix. Yes, Abu Dhabi looked fabulous and worked well as the last race of the decade, but did anyone see the price of a ticket – no wonder the stands were full of corporate guests and celebrity enjoying a jolly and asking which one is Button, or which one is a Ferrari over glasses of champagne… it’s not quite right.
More so, recently there were meetings about F1 and it’s future in terms of audience appeal. Finally it sounds like the folk at the top may have realised that the Internet exists and that people use it. Apart from the sometimes flaky live timing on F1.com, which was introduced years ago F1 manages to completely ignore the whole world wide web. Yes, there’s a website, but until 2009, it looked like a site from 1994. Twitter is hardly new or ground-breaking, but is F1 officially involved, same question for Facebook and the plethora of other social media type shenanigans out there and it will always be a firm no.
Anyway, these recent meetings sounded positive, but don’t, for a single minute think that things are going to change for F1 overnight – like any other overgrown, out of date business model or public sector organisation, F1 is very good at talking about doing stuff, but not actually doing it (unless it’s a court case of course). Losing Bernie Ecclestone would mark the end of a (very long) era, but the Badger can’t be alone in thinking that if we lost the old, out-dated management and injected some level-headed, yet enthusiastic and open-minded youth at the top of the tree, we may see a more exciting, engaging and accessible sport for all to enjoy. Just a thought…
So, are we all in agreement that, even if you don’t like him, Bernie has done a terrific job? Good. Now, we’re not alone in having the idea that Bernie stepping down would be a good idea, so rather than debate that – how about we come up with a list of “if I owned Formula One I would…” – yes, that’s right – the Badger is giving you the chance to be in charge of F1…
Imagine you were given the chance to lead the sport in a new direction, as part of a ideas group to replace Bernie “What’s the Internet?” Ecclestone – what would you come up with?