Max Mosley has written to the presidents of the FIA motor sport clubs around the world in a new attempt to press his case and avoid a motion of no confidence in him at the Emergency General Meeting on June 3rd. Grandprix.com claims to have seen the letter and has published a portion, describing the contents as “explosive”.
In it, Mosley argues he should not be voted out of office because Formula One Group (which controls the commercial side of the sport) is trying to take control of the sport’s regulations away from the FIA. He even suggests the News of the World received the tip-off about his involvement in sadomasochistic sex orgies from someone who wanted to get rid of him and influence the negotiations.
What are we to make of these bizarre new claims?
(Update: download the letter in full here)
What Mosley claims
His letter to the clubs has not been printed in full but the portions that have make fascinating reading. To summarise:
- Mosley claims to have received letters from members with a total of 75 votes in the FIA General Assembly (the FIA’s supreme body), 62 supporting him and 13 against*.
- Mosley says Formula One Group wishes to change two terms of its ownership of F1: one financial (presumably costing the FIA money), the other giving it greater control over F1’s regulations, which is currently the FIA’s prerogative.
- Mosley believes the News of the World were tipped off by someone who wanted to get rid of Mosley and disadvantage the FIA in those negotiations.
- Therefore, Mosley concludes, he should not be voted out of office, because the FIA needs him to combat this move by Formula One Group. He added he still intends to step down in 2009 anyway.
*There is a typographical error in this part of the original story but this seems likely to be the correct interpretation.
How much support is there for Max Mosley?
Assuming the letters Mosley claims to have received are both real and truthful, we should still not jump to the conclusion that he has majority support. He claims to have received indication of how 85 votes will be cast from a total of 222.
However those supporting him are more likely to write and pledge their backing because that way they might guarantee concessions for themselves in the future should he remain in office. But those who do not support him have little to gain by condemning him – they can just let their vote do the talking when the time comes.
Mosley wants the debate on his terms
As has been noted earlier here, Mosley is trying to make this debate about the parts of the argument he thinks he can win. His first line of attack was to deny the alleged Nazi connotations and the FIA has now appointed a lawyer (Anthony Scrivener QC) specifically to report on whether those aspects of the allegations are true.
Mosley does not want a debate about whether a man with a sexual appetite for injuring and humiliating people (regardless of any claimed ‘Nazi’ leanings) should hold an office of such responsibility. An office from which extremely strong verdicts have been handed down, not least in the recent past.
His earlier claim he would step down in 2009 is almost an attempt at a compromise: “Don’t throw me out now, I’ll throw myself out later.”
Mosley is a politician of great skill and he understands that, as Otto von Bismarck said, “politics is the art of the possible.”
He cannot convince the motor sport clubs that footage of him in a five-hour sadomasochistic orgy did not damage the FIA’s reputation – but he might be able to convince them the Nazi angle is fake.
He doubts he can convince them to let him stay indefinitely – but he fancies his chances of getting them to let him stay on until 2009 with, as he says, “almost all public representation of the FIA [left] to the two Deputy Presidents.” Of course, if he does get to stay on until 2009 then who’s to say he won’t have another change of heart as he did when he decided to resign in 2004, and stay on a little while longer?
Is his Formula One Group claim serious?
According to Mosley Formula One Group is trying to re-negotiate the terms of the commercial rights to the sport which the FIA sold to it for a period of 100 years.
He goes on to argue that if he were elected out of office these negotiations could be delayed or halted by the wait for a new FIA president to be appointed.
This surprising claim raises several questions, not least:
- How are Formula One Group able to demand changes to the contract? Had Mosley allowed them to re-negotiate their terms? And if so, when did he make that decision?
- Why would it matter if the talks were delayed? Is the FIA working to a time limit on these proposed changes? If so, why hadn’t that emerged sooner? (Under the FIA statues were Mosley to resign an election would have to be called within two to four months of his resignation).
- Who is demanding the changes to the terms? Is it Bernie Ecclestone, CVC Group, or both?
- The European Union told the FIA it was not allowed to be both the commercial rights holders and the regulators of F1. What makes Formula One Group think that if they were both the commercial rights holders and the regulators of the sport they would not also be investigated by the EU?
It seems to me that it’s very convenient of Mosley to suddenly come out with this new reason for why he should remain in power. Why has it only come out now? Might it be because the news of Mosley being snubbed by Prince Albert of Monaco broke today?
Also, given his closeness to Ecclestone, we cannot rule out the possibility it might be a stunt co-ordinated by the pair of them to keep Mosley in office a little while longer.
Are his conspiracy theory claims serious?
Mosley’s claim that someone trying to undermine the negotiations by tipping off the tabloid press about his fondness for whipping prostitutes is surely the most astonishing part of his letter.
As mentioned earlier the Czech Republic’s World Motor Sports Council representative Radovan Novak recently withdrew his suggestion that McLaren boss Ron Dennis might have played a role in the scandal coming to light.
But I am suspicious Mosley has not yet acknowledged another potential source for the expose, even to deny it. The link between the FIA’s lawsuit against the Sunday Times, the fact that the same people who own that newspaper own both the News of the World who ran the story in the first place, and The Times who’ve been pushing it hardest since it broke, has been covered several times on this site.
What happens next?
The EGM is two weeks on Tuesday and it’s likely we’ll hear more claims between now and then. Mosley may well have supporters lined up to leak more titbits about his interesting new version of events.
The News of the World originally claimed it would send the full video tape to the FIA members allowing them to make their own conclusions. It or one of its sister newspapers may well have saved some previously unpublished facts or photographs to release in the days leading up to the meeting.
Whatever happens, I don’t think the FIA will be able to focus on its real business until Max Mosley has left office, this sorry mess can be put behind us, and the work of rebuilding the reputation of F1 and the FIA can begin.
(Update: download the letter in full here)