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F1 involvement in sportswashing


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#1 Lights

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 11:46

I’m concerned about the growing amount of sportswashing that Formula 1 participates in.
 
Let’s start by saying that I’m neither an (F1) historian, nor an expert in international relations. I’m just a fan who has been reading too much lately. So much that it’s difficult to write this post, because there’s so much to write about, and when you get into a topic like this you end up with 30 tabs open, the latest one making you even unhappier than the last.
 
What is sportwashing?
“the hosting of a sporting event, or owning of a team as a means for a country to improve its reputation, particularly if it has a poor record on human rights.”
In other words, host an international event and hope that people thereby forget the terrible things you do.
 
While this now perhaps a bigger topic than ever before due to F1’s decision to become politically involved with #WeRaceAsOne, sportswashing and F1 is a combo way before hashtags existed.
In fact, who knows when this first took place, but in a way finding that out isn’t really relevant now. Let’s move forward to the current situation. 
 
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Wurz, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Hill, and Coulthard visited Qiddiya, Saudi Arabia earlier this year. Important to note that Wurz is specifically involved in this as he’s trying to launch his circuit design business off the ground, and Saudi Arabia is apparently the best place to do so. He brought some of his buddies along for the extra promotion, while discussing plans for a GP in Qiddiya in 2023.

85ff252e49246973857d0f39146f4cb3.jpg

 

But it seems Saudi Arabia couldn’t wait that long. Yesterday it became official: Formula 1’s 2021 calendar contains a race in a different location, a street circuit in Jeddah.

 

And many people aren’t happy about that. Reason being is that Saudi Arabia is known for their atrocious human rights record (see Amnesty, Human Rights Watch), and recently the killing of a Saudi-critical journalist in an consulate in Istanbul.

 

How can we stop this?

Fans can complain all they want on this forum (me for example) or on Twitter and other social media, but that’s of course not going to do anything. Unless you stop watching and supporting the sport, your complaints don’t matter one bit. And even if you do stop, that won’t matter either, because boycotts have never made a serious impact on anything. There's nothing you can do.
 
The media
Surely the media has some power to bring this to light? Well no, not really. They’re in a tough spot as well, because this topic is so politically sensitive that they often don’t dare to ask critical questions about these subjects as they might risk consequences, such as losing their press pass, or getting murdered in a consulate.
 
However, before the Emilia Romagna GP Laurence Edmondson from ESPN did ask the Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes drivers and team representatives what they thought about the Saudi GP and sportswashing. The answers were:
 
Red Bull
Horner: “When we sign up for a World Championship we don’t dictate where that calendar goes, but we sign up for racing every race. We trust the commercial rights holder, also the governing body to have done the necessary research and to make those decisions that are right for the interest of the sport. We’re not a political organization, sport should never seek to be political, therefore we trust in them to make those right decisions and wherever they choose to have races, in signing up for that championship, we will be attending an doing our best to perform as well as we can at those races.”
 
Verstappen: “Nothing to add.”
Albon: “…”
 
Ferrari
Vettel: “To be honest I’ve only found out recently so I’ve heard the previous years there was a plan to build a circuit, now for next year there’s a plan to race in Saudi Arabia on a street circuit. In all fairness I can’t really say anything because I don’t know enough. We’ve slightly brushed it this morning in terms of the question you’ve asked but I prefer to not say anything because by now I don’t have enough knowledge to comment”
 
Leclerc: “I don’t know either to be honest. Formula 1 will take the decision, and that’s it”
 
Binotto: “I think sport, whatever it is, it’s always positive. I think sport is a positive message, always, and sport may bring positivity. I think that’s the way we should see it. I think we should simply understand that we can be a vector of positivity and that’s important”
 
Mercedes
Hamilton: “I don’t really know enough about that to particularly comment. I’d like to know more about it, I honestly don’t know enough about the human rights issue that’s happening in Saudi Arabia. I have some friends that go there that tell me that it’s a stunning place. But I think it’s important before I really comment that I know exactly what the issue is. I do think Nelson Mandela many years ago said that sport has the power to change the world for the better. I think we’ve already seen the positive shift that we as a sport this year have committed to and started to push in direction of supporting human rights and equality and inclusivity. I think it’s a showing, as a lot of other sports have showed, that it’s a powerful platform to initiate change. The current fact is we go to all these countries and I personally don’t know, whilst it’s a great event, we don’t leave a long lasting effect on those places. The question is can we. Can we be a part of bringing attention to certain issues and pushing for change.”
 
Bottas: “I also don’t have really quite enough details and facts about the exact situation there, but I also believe like what Lewis said, that as long as you know the sport F1 if we can make a positive impact on things then you know why not. I think that’s the main thing you know we need to be having a positive impact on places we go.”
 
Wolff: “I would just follow what Valtteri and Lewis said, I think sport should unite, sport should help to get us to a better place. I think we’ve seen that us racing globally there was a positive discussion around Formula 1 and I’ve been in Riyadh for Formula E, I think it was a year ago. And I was impressed by the change that I’ve seen. As a visitor you never know how things are going but what I’ve seen personally and that’s the only comment I can make because I saw it, it was a great event with no segregation, women and men in the same place, enjoying the sporting event. We need to start somewhere and what I’ve seen is that it started somewhere and I believe we should do whatever we can to make the world a better place.”
 
All these answers were of course very predictable. Red Bull employs the tactic of burying their head in the sand, keeping it corporate and shoving the responsibility to Liberty, while telling their drivers to refrain from commenting on it. Mercedes and Binotto go for the optimism-route: “sport may bring positivity”, “pushing for change”, “positive impact where we go”, and “make the world a better place”. Yuck.
 
It's difficult to believe that all these drivers truly know nothing about Saudi Arabia. The silence from Max and Albon also speaks volumes. The other drivers all claim they don’t know enough about it, as if this deal was gonna fall out of the sky. I wonder what they’ll answer if you ask them again next time, after they've read the amnesty reports. Surely then they will all open up. Anyway, well rehearsed PR and pleasing the corporates. Binnoto was even dictating in which order he and his drivers were answering this question, it looked well rehearsed and that's telling to how sensitive this topic is and how freely they are allowed to talk about it. 
 
Specifically Hamilton’s comment “I have some friends that go there that tell me that it’s a stunning place” is an interesting one. First of all, that’s exactly what’s wrong with this whole situation. Western people, especially those in the entertainment or sport industries, will never experience anything remotely relevant to knowing how a country like Saudi Arabia actually is for the their citizens, for people they oppress and discriminate. Never mind the war crimes they commit. Of course these countries will do everything they can to make Western people tell their friends what a stunning place it is. The music and sporting events they host are engineered with that goal in mind.
 
Frankly everything Saudi Arabia stands for is polar opposite of everything Hamilton preaches and it doesn’t add up whatsoever that he could possibly support this. It puts him in a very difficult position to say the least.
 
What would be a better way for F1 to deal with this?
So there’s plenty of loud voices denouncing the decision from F1 to race there. There’s just as many loud voices claiming that this is nothing new, and that if people aren’t happy, why were they fine with F1 racing in other countries with negative human rights records? Both voices have a point. The question then is what could F1 do about it (if they’d want to, and I know that’s a whole other topic). But realistically, how could F1 consistently and fairly determine which countries are good and which ones aren’t.
 
The-Race released a pretty good article about how F1 should tackle this. Mark Hughes proposes: “The obvious way around this lack of expertise or authority in the subject matter would be for the FIA to include in its statutes a commitment not to have rounds of any of its championships in regimes with an officially-recognised human rights index below/above a certain number or below a certain position in one of the several human rights league tables. The Global Economy rankings, for example, list the 176 countries of the world by human rights records between 2007 and 2019. There are many of these third-party indexes and the league tables each produce show a broadly similar ranking. There is currently a campaign to have the UN itself publish its own such table as a definitive one. But the broad principle of aligning the FIA statutes with a third-party human rights indexing system could preclude F1 from having to be some sort of moral barometer. It would be a simple yes/no once the terms have been defined. In this way also, the sport would not appear to be openly hostile to regimes seeking to host F1 but which didn’t meet the FIA’s requirement on human rights performance.”
 
This makes sense, although they then still has to decide where the line is drawn. Additionally, whilst a good idea, in a way it already seems to be too late given the situation F1 has already found itself in.
 
In an attempt to analyze the situation, and using the Global Economy rankings mentioned by The-Race as an example, I looked at all the countries that hosted Grand Prix since 1994 (I just kept going backwards until it started to become stale) and will likely host in 2021. I counted 29 countries in this timeframe, and the 8 countries that stick out are China (2004), Bahrain (2004), Turkey (2005), UAE (2009), Russia (2014), Azerbaijan (2016), Vietnam (2020), and Saudi Arabia (2021). These 8 are also 8 of the last 13 countries that have been (re-)added to the F1 calendar. The other 5 being Singapore (2008), South Korea (2010), India (2011), Mexico (2015), and The Netherlands (2020).
 
These 8 stand-out countries all have a ‘Human Rights and Rule of Law’-index score above 7.5: China (8.8), Bahrain (8.6), Turkey (8.1), UAE (7.6), Russia (9.1), Azerbaijan (8.3), Vietnam (7.8), and Saudi Arabia (9.3). They are also the only 8 countries in the list that are categorized as ‘hybrid or authoritarian regimes’ in the Democracy Index by the Economist. So perhaps that wouldn’t be a bad place to draw a line?
 
To visualize the effect of the addition of these countries to the calendar, I made a graph depicting the average 'Human Rights and Rule of Law'-index score per season, adding the countries in the year they debuted (not based on their index value):
BqyGXci.png
* data for all years taken from 2019 Index
** using country racetrack is physically in except for Monaco due to absence of data (used France instead)
*** actual max index score is not 5 as graph suggests, but 10. However an axis till 10 made the graph too messy.
**** included the 2020 calendar pre-COVID as the sport had originally intended. 
***** assuming China stays on 2021 calendar. 
 
I’ll admit it’s not the best research, but it gives a rough idea about the worsening of the F1 calendar in the aspect of sportswashing. It’s arguable that the addition of Sepang in Malaysia back in 1999 was already a form of it. And there’s probably other examples going further back. However, I'd argue 2004 marks the beginning of sportswashing taking place in F1 by authoritarian regimes, when Bahrain and China were added to the calendar. And slowly but steadily the average human rights index of F1 countries has doubled since the mid-90’s (from around 2.2 / 10 to around 4.5 / 10).
 
In a way I always connected this form of expansion to Bernie Ecclestone, who clearly had a thing for dictators. But the addition of Saudi Arabia shows that it’s more engrained in the sport itself than that. This partnership did not start under Ecclestone, but with Liberty Media. They continue the line of participating in sportswashing that he started. In the same year Liberty started their campaigns around equality and #WeRaceAsOne, they now add Saudi Arabia to the calendar.
 
Ultimately it’s all about money, it's a trade. F1 is offered a lot of money that they feel they can’t refuse (especially when revenues are down), and in turn F1 helps these countries with hiding their appalling human rights records. Saudi Aramco has been added to the list of F1's Global Partners earlier this year, and trackside Aramco branding, title rights several Grands Prix, and Alonso YouTube videos isn’t all they paid for. Nothing will show the world better what a stunning country Saudi Arabia is than hosting a renowned international sporting event. It affects the perception people have about these countries, and that is worth more to them than the money they invest in this. Formula 1 can use all the PR speak they want about positivity and change, but ultimately they'll achieve nothing of the sort, as previous countries prove. All F1 does is enable the sportswashing to continue. And like with previous events in the other mentioned countries in this post, they will struggle to get people to these races. Which is also not really important, because for both them and the hosting country, that’s not what the Grand Prix is about.
 
Sorry for the long post that’s all over the place. I just want to share this and see what other people think about it. Maybe there are some people who, like me before, never thought about it a lot, and by reading this they learned something.

Edited by Lights, 06 November 2020 - 13:34.


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#2 absinthedude

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 12:08

I'm not quite sure that a line can be clearly drawn but I am not comfortable with F1 visiting Saudi Arabia at this time.

 

I'm old enough to remember that F1 kept going to South Africa when the Apartheid regime was reviled the world over, and other international sports had already given up on South Africa out of disgust. F1 eventually stopped for 1986 but it did itself no favours. 

 

Right now I don't like that the circus visits Russia but perhaps when the deal was signed things were less clear. 

 

But Saudi is notorious. F1 should not be going there for any offer of money.

 

I can live with sport going to countries with far from perfect records but who are making genuine attempts to improve. 

 

Ultimately the only thing I can do as an individual is not watch the race on TV, and keep talking online about why I am making that decision. 

 

It is one thing for a country with a fairly benign leadership to use international sport to say "Hey, come visit your beautiful country"....it's another for a country run by human rights abusing dictators to try the same. 

 

20+ years ago I remember an un-named driver being asked by Nigel Roebuck what he thought about the situation in Iraq....."It's OK, Bernie says we don't have to race there".....I appreciate that the drivers and teams are in a difficult position but they could show a little more nous...



#3 Marklar

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 12:20

If they truly want a change there they would decline them and tell them that they are ready for negotiation if truly something changes there first. F1 is still a huge sport in the world, they actually may still have the power to do this, even if it means missing the big cash for a few years first. Can they? I have no idea. They just registered another loss for the third quarter, and going alone against these regimes (the other big sport leagues happily take the money from there too) might be too big of a task.

 

I'm a bit torn on whether I want a driver to come out now or a female to race in F1. Ironically, if Saudi Arabia refuses them to race F1 has done a good, because they brought accidently attention to their issues. If they let them race they succesfully helped them to clear their reputation without probably anything changing for the people there and also making it less likely that it will change because of the reputation boost. This is the danger of "going there to make it a better place", it can actually cause the opposite.



#4 noikeee

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 12:37

 

These 8 stand-out countries all have a ‘Human Rights and Rule of Law’-index score above 7.5: China (8.8), Bahrain (8.6), Turkey (8.1), UAE (7.6), Russia (9.1), Azerbaijan (8.3), Vietnam (7.8), and Saudi Arabia (9.3). They are also the only 8 countries in the list that are categorized as ‘hybrid or authoritarian regimes’ in the Democracy Index by the Economist. So perhaps that wouldn’t be a bad place to draw a line?

 

I've been trying to put into words why Saudi Arabia in particular feels really, really bad to me, and if you can't put it into words perhaps into numbers will do. By the numbers it's the very worst country in the list.
 
It's also one where if you ignore politics and human rights... there isn't all that much of a genuine motorsports interest in it, unlike say Russia and China, 2 of the biggest, most highly populated, most influential nations on earth, where it's much easier to spark a genuine major motorsports scene (and indeed we've seen for example a handful of fairly good Russian drivers rise into F1 and its support categories).
 
Also, in 2020 Formula 1 is in a very different place than in previous seasons when it added some of those other GPs, because F1 has now launched a major campaign against discrimination and for equality! So how about adding a GP right now in the very worst place for discrimination and for utter inequality in rights. I don't think the word "hipocrisy" even begins to cover it, for how absurd this feels.


#5 BobbyRicky

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 12:48

Honestly, from the "worlds worst countries"-list, Saudi-Arabia is probably the one that is going to reform the fastest.

If they dont manage to do so, and the worlds dependance on oil continues to go down, they are in a bit of a tough spot, and the Saudi-leadership knows this. If they are to survive, they need to change quite fast.

 

Now, they still have some huge human-rights issues and whatnot going on, but if i had to chose between say China or SA to host an F1-race id much rather have them race in the desert than in China.

The best solution would be to not race in any of those countries, but we all know that wont happen.


Edited by BobbyRicky, 06 November 2020 - 12:56.


#6 Sterzo

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 13:21

A brilliant opening post, Lights, full of analysis. This is a massively complex subject.

 

The UK Foreign Office policy towards countries with poor human rights records is to continue engagement and involvement with those countries, including trade. They do attempt to influence other governments to improve their practices, and I'd guess this is kept deliberately low-profile as being confrontational is rarely effective. Now, as it happens I'm not the Foreign Secretary, but I would guess the UK diplomats would see sports interaction as a way of getting closer to the Saudi regime and thereby part of that potential to influence.

 

This policy isn't exclusive to the UK: I would have thought it was universal amongs democratic countries' diplomats who are, after all, diplomatic because that works better than hostility. It's also consisten with the UN approach to the subject.

 

The situation is further complicated by the UK supplying arms to Saudi Arabia. British bombs were allegedly used in atrocities in Yemen. When there was outrage in the press, the goverment more or less said they'd now only supply arms which weren't used in Yemen, a policy greeted with cynicism by many of us.

 

I suppose what I'd draw out of this tangled muddle is: governments and dilomats struggle with the issue. Let's not ask some bod whose skill is flinging a car round a track to solve it for us. Similarly, I would not look to Christian Horner, nor even Geri Horner, to lead in resolving a problem by devising a strategy different from that of their government or the United Nations. These people are perfectly entitled to step back and expect others to decide.

 

None of this stops me from looking at Liberty and thinking: OK, you also don't have to solve this, but neither do you have to approach dubious countries in order to add races.


Edited by Sterzo, 06 November 2020 - 17:44.


#7 maximilian

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 13:23

"We race as one, unless somebody waves a wad of cash at us"



#8 pdac

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 13:24

Welcome to the world of business.



#9 Imperial

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 13:53

I really wish the drivers would be honest and just follow the line the teams pretty much do, that they have signed up to do something and they travel wherever that something takes them.

 

I don't for one second however believe that the the four drivers who bothered to speak (quoted in the OP) know nothing about the situation in Saudi Arabia. 



#10 mjjTT

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:06

A positive thing of a race in Saudi Arabia could be that it will accelerate change.  

 

The Saudi's using a F1 a promotion for their country, could also back fire and highlight the negatives to a larger audience. Who doesn't remember Jesse Owens in 1936.



#11 alframsey

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:17

Honestly the world is so ****ing entwined with these monstrous regimes that each of them and 'us' are one in the same. It is inescapable with the type of global economic system with have created and the only way to change this is to smash it all to the ground.

 

PS spoken somewhat tongue in cheek.



#12 milestone 11

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:19

Who doesn't remember Jesse Owens in 1936.

Wow, you're 85+?  ;)

#13 milestone 11

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:23

 
I don't for one second however believe that the the four drivers who bothered to speak (quoted in the OP) know nothing about the situation in Saudi Arabia.

They were caught somewhat unaware at last weeks PC.

#14 milestone 11

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:28

Sadly, I don't have the courage of my own convictions. I'd much rather F1 didn't go to these countries, however, if there's a race in any of them, I shall be watching.

#15 Peter Perfect

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:30

A positive thing of a race in Saudi Arabia could be that it will accelerate change.  

 

The Saudi's using a F1 a promotion for their country, could also back fire and highlight the negatives to a larger audience. Who doesn't remember Jesse Owens in 1936.

 

That reminds me of an interesting article I read about his participation
https://bleacherrepo...berlin-olympics



#16 RobNNN

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:41

Does anyone have any evidence on whether or not sportswashing works for the regime in question? There is the argument that greater engagement leads to better human rights, but I don't know if that is true.

 

Anyway, these regimes obviously think that holding such events is going to help them, and not those hoping for more rights.



#17 Muppetmad

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:42

Great OP. I agree with Mark Hughes' proposal: measuring countries using a respected third-party index would be an excellent solution to the problem, ensuring F1 is not perceived to be arbitrarily picking and choosing where it hosts its races.

 

WeRaceAsOne rang hollow from the moment it was announce because of F1's races in Bahrain, China, Russia and elsewhere - but there was at least plausible deniability, i.e. "we now know better and won't be pursuing deals with these countries any further once the current contracts run out". This new race in Saudi Arabia removes any plausible deniability. Simply put, it is the wrong decision to race there.



#18 FTB

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:47

Good thread, Lights. I think we as F1 fans should boycott this race.

Saudi Arabia has horrendous human rights, have ties with terrorist groups, and are killing thousands of people in Yemen. 

Saudi Arabia and groups associated with them have been trying to kill secularism and they support ultra religious groups around Middle East for many years, including in Turkey ( the country I live in ). The current ruling party of Turkey ( AKP ) have massive ties with Saudi Arabia, they have caused Turkey to go massively backwards in the past 18 years.



#19 ANF

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:47

That reminds me of an interesting article I read about his participation
https://bleacherrepo...berlin-olympics

Oh. I was just about to ask what kind of change Jesse Owen's participation in the Olympics accelerated in 1936, and now I found out that he replaced a Jewish athlete on the relay team to appease the Nazi regime.



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#20 FTB

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:51

Great OP. I agree with Mark Hughes' proposal: measuring countries using a respected third-party index would be an excellent solution to the problem, ensuring F1 is not perceived to be arbitrarily picking and choosing where it hosts its races.

 

WeRaceAsOne rang hollow from the moment it was announce because of F1's races in Bahrain, China, Russia and elsewhere - but there was at least plausible deniability, i.e. "we now know better and won't be pursuing deals with these countries any further once the current contracts run out". This new race in Saudi Arabia removes any plausible deniability. Simply put, it is the wrong decision to race there.

The third party index is not really a solution though, those 'experts' supported AKP for years in Turkey, for example. ( There were articles in New York Times massively in favour of AKP around 2007-2008, for starters ). They may support Saudi Arabia if they are given enough cash too.



#21 Viryfan

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:52

Racing since 1920's goes into dodgy places.

 

There is no reason for this to change, if the money is there as long as it does not put you in hot water there is no reason to say no.



#22 Imperial

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:53

They were caught somewhat unaware at last weeks PC.

 

If I stepped outside my front door right now and someone randomly asked me my thoughts on Saudi Arabia, I'd be able to answer their question regardless of whether I expected it or not.



#23 ANF

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 14:58

The third party index is not really a solution though, those 'experts' supported AKP for years in Turkey, for example. ( There were articles in New York Times massively in favour of AKP around 2007-2008, for starters ). They may support Saudi Arabia if they are given enough cash too.

The Global Economy index gave Turkey 5.1 in 2007, 5.5 in 2008, 6.0 in 2009. Looks like you're just making things up.

#24 FortiFord

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 15:17

If they truly want a change there they would decline them and tell them that they are ready for negotiation if truly something changes there first. F1 is still a huge sport in the world, they actually may still have the power to do this, even if it means missing the big cash for a few years first. Can they? I have no idea. They just registered another loss for the third quarter, and going alone against these regimes (the other big sport leagues happily take the money from there too) might be too big of a task.

 

I'm a bit torn on whether I want a driver to come out now or a female to race in F1. Ironically, if Saudi Arabia refuses them to race F1 has done a good, because they brought accidently attention to their issues. If they let them race they succesfully helped them to clear their reputation without probably anything changing for the people there and also making it less likely that it will change because of the reputation boost. This is the danger of "going there to make it a better place", it can actually cause the opposite.

 

I doubt Saudi would care if F1 turned down their money. Look at how much Aramco is worth. F1 is a drop in the ocean in comparison. 

 

FYI - women are allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia since the last few years. In fact, they already have a female driver who competes in Formula 4 and has raced in Saudi Arabia. 



#25 Bloggsworth

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 15:21

So goodbye China, Turkey, Hungary, the southern Arabian states; Brazil is a bit iffy as well - Or you could do what all sport does, follow the money, after all, World Cups in Russia and Quatar, Summer Olympic games in China, and winter games in Russia... If the US banned Pepsi and Coca~Cola from sponsoring events in such places...



#26 FortiFord

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 15:23

Good thread, Lights. I think we as F1 fans should boycott this race.

Saudi Arabia has horrendous human rights, have ties with terrorist groups, and are killing thousands of people in Yemen. 

Saudi Arabia and groups associated with them have been trying to kill secularism and they support ultra religious groups around Middle East for many years, including in Turkey ( the country I live in ). The current ruling party of Turkey ( AKP ) have massive ties with Saudi Arabia, they have caused Turkey to go massively backwards in the past 18 years.

 

Turkey? You mean the Islamic Republic of Erdogan?  :)

 

Everything you say is true, but the problem starts with the fact that the Western powers such as the UK and the US are in full support of the Sauds and are happy to sell them weapons (which are used to destroy any Shia uprisings across the Middle East) in exchange for cheaper oil. 



#27 Chillimeister

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 15:39

As a few other posters have pointed out, this comes down to business decisions. Liberty has a ****load of debt to service following its purchase of the commercial rights for F1 and an obligation to deliver returns to its shareholders, so whilst they might not choose to sanction a race in Saudi (I don't believe they are completely oblivious to world opinion) they won't say no to the money. Maybe if the F1 teams were to agree to a 25-30 race programme Liberty might not find it necessary to get into bed with the Saudis but the teams (I say rightly) don't want to agree to such an expansion. So Liberty will just do what they regard as expedient in their pursuit of $$$. Another reason to dislike them.



#28 Marklar

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 15:42

I doubt Saudi would care if F1 turned down their money. Look at how much Aramco is worth. F1 is a drop in the ocean in comparison. 

 

 

the money? sure. the reputation? not sure. Granted, if they instead get more football events on board or something it'll make no difference for them, but if somebody starts with it maybe others follow in boycotting? All easier said than done, of course.



#29 Lights

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 15:43

 

I've been trying to put into words why Saudi Arabia in particular feels really, really bad to me, and if you can't put it into words perhaps into numbers will do. By the numbers it's the very worst country in the list.
 
It's also one where if you ignore politics and human rights... there isn't all that much of a genuine motorsports interest in it, unlike say Russia and China, 2 of the biggest, most highly populated, most influential nations on earth, where it's much easier to spark a genuine major motorsports scene (and indeed we've seen for example a handful of fairly good Russian drivers rise into F1 and its support categories).
 
Also, in 2020 Formula 1 is in a very different place than in previous seasons when it added some of those other GPs, because F1 has now launched a major campaign against discrimination and for equality! So how about adding a GP right now in the very worst place for discrimination and for utter inequality in rights. I don't think the word "hipocrisy" even begins to cover it, for how absurd this feels.

 

 

Yeah well put. I think what causes a bigger outrage now, and provokes this worse feeling compared to previous cases, are several reasons that each have an additive effect:

  • Saudi Arabia has the worst human rights record, both in most people's heads as literally in most indexes.
  • Lack of heritage in any form, although to be fair if you never start then it's never gonna be there either.
  • The reaction can no longer be: "Well, Bernie is crazy, this is on him". -> No, Liberty Media is a huge organization and actually has a reputation to maintain. Yet this apparently doesn't seem to matter, with the trend continuing as if Bernie was still at the helm.
  • F1 famously launched their global #WeRaceAsOne initiative just 5 months ago, fighting against racism and inequality. Racing in authoritarian regimes is no longer just negligence, it's hypocrisy in its finest form as well.

On the other hand, it's not like these other 7 countries have much better numbers. They're also all in the bottom 25% of the 176 indexed countries, and also have an awful human rights record. Partially through a different perception the global reaction is more positive towards them, where it perhaps doesn't always deserve to be. But it's also difficult to compare the acts sometimes.

 

What's worse, torturing, imprisoning, and amputating citizens for the pettiest acts, or committing mass genocide and harvesting organs of specific religious groups?

Not saying that's all that's being done by either country, but the point is, how to compare it all. That there then might be a bit more genuine motorsport interest in the latter shouldn't make the difference for F1, in my opinion.


Edited by Lights, 06 November 2020 - 20:32.


#30 milestone 11

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 16:00

If I stepped outside my front door right now and someone randomly asked me my thoughts on Saudi Arabia, I'd be able to answer their question regardless of whether I expected it or not.

I agree. I was rather making excuses for their guarded approval. On second thoughts, they were probably well versed with stock in trade PC responses.

Edited by milestone 11, 06 November 2020 - 19:10.


#31 Lights

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 16:12

A positive thing of a race in Saudi Arabia could be that it will accelerate change.  

 

The Saudi's using a F1 a promotion for their country, could also back fire and highlight the negatives to a larger audience.

 

I'm very skeptical of an F1 Grand Prix accelerating change in Saudi Arabia after seeing what it has changed for China, Bahrain, Turkey and UAE.


Edited by Lights, 06 November 2020 - 16:34.


#32 jcbc3

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 16:29

Continuing on Sterzo's theme.

 

It is not, and shouldn't be, up to private entities to form foreign policy. For this reason, it is legitimate to go to Saudi Arabia or whatever other country that isn't placed under embargoes from your government. This may seem 'cowardly' or 'blind' but it does mean that you won't get into moral hoops about degree of badness.

 

That being said, any individual in the private entities have the right to make their personal moral stance and refuse to go. But also knowing that this stance may be against company policy and thus lead to termination of employment.

 

And then all the scenario's in-between. Mercedes are selling a ton of cars in Saudi Arabia. They would never ever take a stance. Lawrence Stroll is of Jewish descent. He could (in theory) say, sorry no can go. But again, it would invalidate his contracts with Liberty. So does he love his principles or his son's career the most?

 

A lot of dilemmas for everyone involved. Also continuing on Milestone's post. I would wish I had the moral fortitude to boycott the race, but I know I won't. I must resign myself to the fact that in 100 years time, when we are into solar, wind and nuclear power, the Saudis won't have any money left for these things.



#33 Dipster

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 16:47

It would be interesting to see F1 drivers contracts with their teams and sponsors. Perhaps they are obliged by contract to participate wherever the races are and perhaps gagged on commenting on particular subjects.  Horner's comments made me think of the "only following orders" excuse.

 

The bottom line really is money. This year Liberty need to catch up financially and such races would probably be viewed as manna from heaven.  The drivers may also have a minimum number of races they must compete in to honour their contracts so might feel obliged (again for financial reasons) to race wherever.

 

Money, like religion, really can screw up most things.......



#34 cpbell

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 16:49

Good points made by many here.  Formula 1 has a history of supporting controversial regimes, but I agree that this seems rather more serious than most given the "We Race As One" claim that has felt to me pretty empty anyway.  It's interesting to think that, had this happened 6-7 years ago, Susie Wolf could not have been considered for an FP1 drive as she would have been stoned for doing so; a thought which brings into focus just how backwards the place was until recently.



#35 Jops14

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 16:50

As a Newcastle fan, it makes me laugh how much complaining and coverage was given to the Saudi deal, lots of people in the press with strong opinions, F1 does it, and suddenly no one cares

#36 PayasYouRace

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 17:13

Maybe I’m interpreting it differently, but I see #WeRaceAsOne as an inclusive slogan. Not we race as one as long as you meet our particular standards. But that’s by the by.

 

I think it was mentioned in another thread how just hosting the ePrix was enough to have the Saudis change their laws, so it seems that this is less about sport washing and about the diplomacy that Sterzo mentioned.

 

My own thoughts have always been that a Grand Prix should be a reward for the countries that contribute most to the motorsport world. That contribution being more than simply pumping oil money into it. So my main objections to Saudi Arabia stem from that. But, I don’t think it should be F1 or any sport that determines the “moral worth” of a country by choosing to or not to race there.



#37 danmills

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 17:27

America right now has a hideously questionable and possibly corrupt situation with regards to politics. But I don't see Austin being struck off because of a government being frowned upon.

This track was probably more about soneone with money wanting a new play thing and Wurz jumping on a chance for a rich person to bankroll his new hobby than the royal family or government doing it to make us love them.

 

F1 gets a new track. Nobody bat's an eyelid. Everyone wins.

 

There aren't many places in the world left with as much cash or freedom or a blank canvas to do this. Look at the failed attempts to revive Donnington, Brands Hatch, that track in Wales...

China also has horrible human rights. But I bet people don't say no to Chinese products because they're embedded in everything.


Edited by danmills, 06 November 2020 - 17:30.


#38 Imperial

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 17:29

As a Newcastle fan, it makes me laugh how much complaining and coverage was given to the Saudi deal, lots of people in the press with strong opinions, F1 does it, and suddenly no one cares


In the UK and certainly in the Evening Chronicle, I'm still sick of that rag bleeting on about it. They've been running comments from the Saudi's this week.

Outside of the UK though I don't think there was any interest at all.

The issue with F1 is that it doesn't really belong to a particular place does it, so nobody really has to take ownership of this as an issue. The NUFC deal was based around one team and one city, so attracted more regional attention. This F1 race is too easy for everyone to pass the buck and trot out the line of 'We race where the calendar takes us'.

F1's own statement on human rights is on their website, and stretches to a few paragraphs not worth bothering with, so it ain't their problem either.

Luckily the world has Amnesty International but we all know that in business nobody hears you scream.

#39 pRy

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 17:45

I'm a bit torn on whether I want a driver to come out now or a female to race in F1. Ironically, if Saudi Arabia refuses them to race F1 has done a good, because they brought accidently attention to their issues. If they let them race they succesfully helped them to clear their reputation without probably anything changing for the people there and also making it less likely that it will change because of the reputation boost. This is the danger of "going there to make it a better place", it can actually cause the opposite.

 

Women are able to drive in Saudi Arabia now. There is also a female racing driver named Reema Juffali who is Saudi. She's raced over there.

 

I also learnt whilst looking at her wiki that Formula E has already raced there.



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#40 FTB

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 17:49

The Global Economy index gave Turkey 5.1 in 2007, 5.5 in 2008, 6.0 in 2009. Looks like you're just making things up.

And it gave 5.5 in 2010 and 5.2 in 2011.

Also, I remember many examples about the European Parliament, USA etc. supporting AKP. I can give you the New York Times link of 2 articles from 2007 and 2008. As a person living in Turkey I'm pretty sure I'm not making things up. For instance, the leader of the opposition party CHP, was taken out of the European Parliament for criticizing Erdogan a few years ago. 



#41 Sterzo

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 18:05

If I stepped outside my front door right now and someone randomly asked me my thoughts on Saudi Arabia, I'd be able to answer their question regardless of whether I expected it or not.

But do you accept that you have a duty to comment knowledgeably on any political situation anyone chooses to quiz you on, and to do so representing your employer and F1, and to be subjected (potentially) to vilification and accusations of hypocricy on social media? Because that's what we seem to be expecting from a few young lads who happen to be skilled at flinging a car round a track.

 

And if we did expect drivers to comment, or Liberty to boycott a country, should we ask ourselves what we have done ourselves? I could have written to my MP protesting about Britain's relationship with Saudi Arabia, but do you know what? I haven't bothered.



#42 ATM

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 18:37

Does sportswashing actually work for an individual which has at least a minimal knowledge of the current world? I for one can’t say I look with a kinder eye to any such politics.

#43 mclarensmps

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 20:22

If I stepped outside my front door right now and someone randomly asked me my thoughts on Saudi Arabia, I'd be able to answer their question regardless of whether I expected it or not.

But is your reply going to be published globally, scrutinized by the world media because of your stature, and could have a possible impact on your employer, shareholders, partner companies and (if applicable) sponsors? And have you had a history of the people asking questions turning your responses into headlines that suited them, as opposed to being accurate to your intentions?



#44 Fastcake

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 23:08

I like to view it as one simple question: where does the money come from?

 

If the event is privately funded, being funded by people simply trying to make a profit, or if the event is held in a strong nation for the sport with large levels of participation, a sports governing body can make a truthful declaration they are simply going where the fans are or where the sport has a natural home. You can claim you're above politics when you have no involvement with the local despots.

 

It's impossible however to honestly use sport has nothing to do with politics as a cop out answer when the sole reason you're going somewhere is part of a state marketing campaign. The very existence of a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is to benefit the House of Saud. Formula One cannot dodge the question and pretend it is neutral on the issue when it quite obviously is not.



#45 Izzyeviel

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 23:08

Nobody cares. 



#46 PlatenGlass

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 23:18

Continuing on Sterzo's theme.

It is not, and shouldn't be, up to private entities to form foreign policy. For this reason, it is legitimate to go to Saudi Arabia or whatever other country that isn't placed under embargoes from your government. This may seem 'cowardly' or 'blind' but it does mean that you won't get into moral hoops about degree of badness.

It shouldn't be up to individuals to form foreign policy, but if governments aren't doing enough, then arguably they have to.

People make decisions all the time e.g. about what is ethical to buy. Yes, you might think we shouldn't have to, but you can't rely on the government to always be a force for good.

So we are all in a position of responsibility and need to know that our actions can have consequences. And this is especially the case for those in the public eye. So it's right for individuals in F1 to ask themselves what good/bad can come out of a race in Saudi Arabia (or indeed any other country) and not just follow the F1 party line. It's a very difficult position to be in though if you feel differently from the official F1 line.

#47 PlatenGlass

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Posted 06 November 2020 - 23:20

If I stepped outside my front door right now and someone randomly asked me my thoughts on Saudi Arabia, I'd be able to answer their question regardless of whether I expected it or not.

You might do but most people wouldn't have the specifics to hand other than Saudi Arabia = bad. I wouldn't want to give an answer without researching first.

#48 Myrvold

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Posted 07 November 2020 - 02:01

There is no reason for this to change, if the money is there as long as it does not put you in hot water there is no reason to say no.

 

Good thing there's no driver who's openly gay, eh. Could return broken and in pieces. Literally.



#49 noikeee

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Posted 07 November 2020 - 02:46

On the other hand, it's not like these other 7 countries have much better numbers. They're also all in the bottom 25% of the 176 indexed countries, and also have an awful human rights record. Partially through a different perception the global reaction is more positive towards them, where it perhaps doesn't always deserve to be. But it's also difficult to compare the acts sometimes.

What's worse, torturing, imprisoning, and amputating citizens for the pettiest acts, or committing mass genocide and harvesting organs of specific religious groups?
Not saying that's all that's being done by either country, but the point is, how to compare it all. That there then might be a bit more genuine motorsport interest in the latter shouldn't make the difference for F1, in my opinion.


Yeah but with Russia and China at least the usually invoked argument of "we're not involved in politics, we're just doing a sport and are there for the sport", doesn't sound totally ridiculous. There is a genuine interest in racing in Russia and China, for making it a true world championship that visits a varied range of different areas of the globe, stops by in all the most important areas of the globe. Whereas adding a third Middle Eastern race...? You can't argue for any kind of sporting interest on this one. The geographical area already is covered. It's not an area with particular interest from the fans. It's not a country with a particularly high population that you could build a healthy motorsports scene in. There just isn't any upside to racing there whatsoever, than taking in the money. Which is intrinsically linked to politics, as it's paid by the government, to project a modern image of the country. It's literally 100% sportswashing and directly fully linked to politics, whereas other events are maybe 80% or 90% with a little bit of other genuine motivations which can at least half seriously be argued for.

#50 MattPete

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Posted 07 November 2020 - 02:48

Two words: bone saw

 

Like the Russian GP, i will refuse to watch.