David Ward has withdrawn from the FIA election after failing to get the required support from members for his nomination – which means that President Jean Todt will now be unopposed and thus has four more years at the helm of the FIA.
Ward had written to the FIA confirming his withdrawal, and took the opportunity to point out the perceived flaws in the system that did not allow him to take part in the election. It’s been clear for some weeks that the letters of support Todt obtained while touring the regions on FIA business earlier this year would make it almost impossible for a second candidate to be nominated.
The fact that a respected FIA insider with a 20-year history with the organisation can’t get as far as the voting process does seem to suggest that the system needs to be looked at…
Ward’s letter is reproduced in full here:
I am writing to confirm my withdrawal as a candidate in the 2013 FIA Presidential election. It has not proved possible for me to secure the required number of regional Vice Presidents for Sport to ensure the eligibility of my list. I, therefore, would like to offer my congratulations to Jean Todt who will secure a second term uncontested, if not unopposed.
As I explained when I launched my candidacy in September, my reason for standing has been to promote transparency, accountability and democracy in the FIA. For many years the FIA has struggled with governance reform. All too often it takes one step forward and then two steps back. This is clear from the current election which is being run on a shorter presidential list than the 2009 but which is offset by a new requirement for 26 nominating clubs. The 2009 eligibility threshold was 23 but has now risen to 37 which is the highest ever in the history of the FIA.
The need to obtain seven Vice Presidents for Sport has given control over whether or not there can be a contested election at all to the FIA’s sport regions. Moreover the use of support agreements in advance of the election makes it very hard for any candidate to obtain the required Vice Presidents for their list. In the FIA’s North American region eleven out of the twelve clubs signed an agreement to support Jean Todt in March. This left only one club available to provide a Vice President for my list. Clubs from the region that are sympathetic to my candidacy would have to break their previous pledge of support. It is understandable that they have been reluctant to do so.
Fortunately some clubs have understood the need for change. Statute amendments have been submitted to the General Assembly to delete Vice Presidents of Sport from the presidential list and cut the number of club nominations. If passed the eligibility requirement for future FIA elections would be just seven. This would encourage multiple candidates to stand and restore fairness to the FIA election system.
The statute changes would also give sport regions the right to directly elect their own Vice Presidents for Sport. This would strengthen their accountability to the regions that elect them. According to the Senate President Nick Craw, “the idea of electing Sport VPs democratically is not practical”. I strongly disagree with this. It is perfectly practical to be democratic. The FIA’s Vice Presidents for Mobility are elected in this way; so are the Regional Presidents of the Federation Internationale de Motorcylisme (FIM). The reason why the FIA leadership finds democracy impractical is that they fear it would be less easy for them to control regions that elect their own leaders.
The current FIA model is government of the leadership, by the leadership, for the leadership. I think it would be better if they took their inspiration from President Lincoln. The FIA’s government should be of the clubs, by the clubs, and for the clubs.
I believe greater democracy among the clubs and their regions is essential to the future growth and vitality of the FIA. This is particularly important in a world in which mobility and motor sport will grow fastest in the newly motorising economies of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.
These are the regions where elected Vice Presidents can develop the skills and experience needed for higher office. Then, as happened in the FIM a few years ago, perhaps a non-European can be elected as FIA President.
My candidacy in the 2013 election has not been motivated by a burning ambition to serve as President of the FIA. My clear preference would be for a club President to be elected to that role, supported by the appointment of a new Chief Executive. That is why I have described myself as a reluctant candidate. What I have tried to do is to encourage debate about the flaws that exist in the FIA’s governance system. I am satisfied that I have succeeded in that. Indeed I have received many supportive comments about my manifesto ‘Agenda for Change’ and I hope the ideas it contains will serve as a catalyst for further reform.
If the statute amendments are passed on 6th December the FIA will have taken a significant step towards a more democratic future. I very much hope that the amendments will not ‘talked out’ by the leadership in the World Councils, but voted on by secret ballot in the General Assembly.
Whatever the outcome, I think progress in the governance of the FIA is inevitable. We are living in an age of transparency with new demands for accountability from governments, corporations and sports federations alike.
Last week the new President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach speaking in the UN General Assembly said that sports organisations need to justify their autonomy and demonstrate good governance.
He explained that the IOC’s Universal Principles of Good Governance of the Olympic Movement should be accepted as a minimum standard at all levels of sport. I fully agree with President Bach and urge the FIA membership to study the Universal Principles carefully and use them to guide further reform to improve the FIA’s transparency, accountability and democracy.
I have had the privilege to work in various capacities with the FIA and the FIA Foundation for twenty years. It has been a very rewarding experience both professionally and personally. I would like to especially thank the supporters of my campaign, the clubs willing to nominate me, and all those who encouraged me to stand. For me it has been a very positive experience. I wish all my friends and colleagues in the very best of luck as you continue to develop the FIA’s vital role promoting motor sport and mobility around the world.