A History of Organizational Change
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A History of Organizational Change

The case of Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), 1946–2020

Hans Erik Næss

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eBook - ePub

A History of Organizational Change

The case of Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), 1946–2020

Hans Erik Næss

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About This Book

This book is the first independent exploration of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile's (FIA) institutional history. Virtually unexamined compared with similar institutions like the FIFA and the IOC, the FIA has nevertheless changed from being a small association in 1904 to becoming one of the world's most influential sport governing bodies. Through chronologically organised chapters, this book explains how the FIA manages to link together motorsport circuses like Formula 1 with the automotive industry and societal issues like road safety and environmental sustainability. In an exciting narrative spanning seven decades, it reviews the FIA's organisational turning points, governing controversies, political dramas and sporting tragedies.

Considering the FIA to be a unique type of hybrid organisation characterised by what the author calls 'organisational emulsion', this case study contains theoretical innovations relevant to other studies of sport governing bodies. It makes an empirically grounded contribution to the research fields of institutional logics, historical sociology and sport governance.

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© The Author(s) 2020
H. E. NæssA History of Organizational Changehttps://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-48270-1_1
Begin Abstract

1. Introduction: A World in Motion

Hans Erik Næss1
Oslo, Norway
Hans Erik Næss
Hybrid organisationsInstitutional logicsHistorical sociologyThe car society
End Abstract
After a modest start in 1904, when it was named the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR), the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) (renamed such in 1946) has become one of the most influential sport governing bodies in the world. To explain why and how, let me introduce three vignettes in which the FIA has been the centre of attention in the years of 2019–2020:
Vignette 1
All the FIA seniors were there, at Formula One’s 1000th race in Shanghai, China, or the ‘the FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN CHINESE GRAND PRIX 2019’ as it was officially known. Although it is debatable whether it actually was the thousandth race since the inauguration of the world championship in 1950, the event was definitively a milestone, according to Ross Brawn. An F1 veteran since the late 1980s with many roles on his curriculum vitae (CV), and currently sporting director of the entire championship, he reflected upon the achievement like this:
Today, winning is no longer the ‘magnificent obsession’ it was for me every day. That has been replaced with the desire to play a part in taking Formula One into the future. This is an opportunity to trace out a new path for a sport that has few rivals, in terms of the spectacle it offers and its global reach. It has an amazing history from which to move forward and this 1000th grand prix is its brightest symbol.1
Similarly, FIA president Jean Todt commented that the race on the track which cost EUR 370 million to build, and that included teams like Mercedes and Ferrari, each of which has an annual budget of around USD 400 million,2 symbolised how ‘F1 is like a thriller (…) I have been discussing it with friends recently, with Luc Besson and Michael Mann, the directors, and I said: “You know, if you want to make a real movie about F1 there is no point, because each race is a thriller.”’3
Vignette 2
Four hundred and seventy delegates from all around the world gathered in Sun City, South Africa, for the 2019 FIA Conference. According to the FIA’s newsletters, it was the first time in the institution’s history, that the FIA had brought together the Sport and Mobility Conferences, the Region I Spring Meeting and the FIA Sport Regional Congress Africa. As a result, a large group of membership clubs and stakeholders were gathered under the same roof to ‘discuss latest trends, build synergies and unite FIA member organisations while celebrating the achievements of our Members around the world’. Among the numerous sessions and plenaries, one of them was called ‘Developing Nations’, which according to the conference newsletter, ‘provided the ideal platform for the FIA to announce an exciting new innovation: an international, multi-disciplinary FIA Motorsport Games’. In essence, the Games brought together drivers from five racing disciplines into a single event in which drivers—in contrast to the historically transnational norm of motorsport—competed under their national flag.4
Despite being promoted by SRO Motorsports Group (run by motorsport PR guru Stéphane Ratel, who we will return to in Chap. 4), the participation of 49 countries, great hype and the inclusion of the Gran Turismo PlayStation 4 game as one of the disciplines (!) it received little attention on, for example, social media. On the Facebook account of @fiamotorsportgames, on 26 February 2020 only 15 people had reviewed the 2019 event, albeit those reviews were positive.5 At the opposite extreme, the idea of motorsport Olympics—although it had been suggested at one FIA General Assembly in the early 1950s, that motorsports should become part of the ‘real’ Olympics—was applauded by several national motorsport clubs (such as Russia and Italy) and seen as showing ‘potential’ according to Motorsport Magazine, arguably one of the most influential publications on motoring history and journalism.6 Ratel, moreover, who got his inspiration from the Beijing Olympics, plans to make this a global phenomenon by taking it ‘around the world’.7
Vignette 3
In connection with Formula E races, which are part of a marketing-savvy championship for all-electric cars and given full world championship status by the FIA from 2020 onwards (see Chap. 6), the FIA has introduced Smart Cities Forum. Since 2017, its aim has been to encourage stakeholders to address urban issues and discuss the future of modern mobility systems. In April 2019, this forum coincided with the Rome E Prix, leading Jean Todt to write in the programme’s foreword: ‘Along with experts from the German Marshall Fund, the International Transport Forum, and Airbus, the Mayors of Rome and Brussels had a dedicated session, sharing their vision on how to make the mobility transition in cities faster and more inclusive.’ Alejandro Agag, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Formula E, said:
I am proud that together with the governing body and our partners we are celebrating those who are creating new technologies in the fight against climate change. As the automotive industry is moving toward electrification, Formula E is a platform that can accelerate and promote the change to sustainable mobility.8
There are a number of strands to this; on a macro level, the initiative is related to the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, the watershed year emphasised by the United Nations (UN) in its environmental sustainability goals.9 On a meso level, this is FIA’s contribution to the International Federation (IF) Sustainability Project launched by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), by which the FIA was recognised in 2011,10 to obtain an overview of IF’s sustainability initiatives—identifying common topics, challenges, and good practices while also sharing information among the IF’s members.11 Among other things, FIA partnered with the French elite higher education institution, Sciences Po Paris, to identify and rate the best practices of urban mobility systems from the ten Formula E Prix host cities. The winner was selected by an external international expert panel, which measured innovation in five areas: quality of life, governance, economic performance, mobility efficiency, and environmental sustainability.
The three vignettes above illustrate some of the diversity and scope of today’s FIA, which holds, in its own words, ‘the exclusive right to take all decisions concerning the organisation, direction and management of International Motor Sport’ (FIA Activity Report, 2016, p. 1). Located in three cities—Geneva, Valleiry, and Paris (its headquarters)—it consists in 2020 of 240 member clubs from 144 countries. Those represent in total about 80 million members, and host together, with the FIA, a network of stakeholders and engage in activities that the organisation’s first members would probably have found unimaginable. More than half a century ago, when everybody was picking up the pieces after World War II, the situation was quite different. By then, the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR) had already been active for some time. At a meeting at Bad Homburg in Germany on 20 June 1904, hosted by Duke Victor of Ratibor, it was proposed to form ‘an international association of automobile clubs’ (Hutton, 2004, p. 23). It was a private association whose statutes emphasised that member clubs should deal with ‘all questions related to motoring’ (Hutton, 2004, p. 32), and in which a group of idealistic and wealthy people came together through their fascination for cars, road travel, and motorsports. Unpaid and in the service of their national clubs, these individuals hailed from upper-class backgrounds across Europe and the US. Politically and religiously neutral, not profit-oriented and with membership responsibilities enshrined in its statutes, it began to promote a form of transport which came to transform societies more than any other in the coming century.

The French Connection

In the centre of it all was Paris. Around the turn of the twentieth century, French and German inventors competed fiercely to become the first mass manufacturer of cars. In 1896, Armand Peugeot established Anonyme des Automobiles Peugeot and focused on developing internal combustion engines—a critical choice, it would turn out, because of the early links between the automotive industry and motorsport events as performative showrooms. After the races from Paris-Rouen (first run in 1894), Paris-Bordeaux and back (1895), and Chicago to Evanston (1895), which were all won by petroleum-based cars, it became clear that petrol-powered engines outperformed steam and electricity as power sources. Stimulated by the interest in these events, and in the car in general, motoring interests from racing, international touring, and continental travel were early served by the establishment of Touring Club de France (Touring Club de France (TCF), 1890) and the Automobile Club de France (Automobile Club de France (ACF), 1895). These associations promoted easier international travel by car and road races, and acquired public support and industrial momentum both of which, among other things, manifested themselves in the early use of international conventions to showcase the novelties of the car industry. The first Salon d’Automobile took place on 15 June 1898 in the Tuileries Gardens, where exhibitors were ‘required to demonstrate their wares by driving their cars from Versailles to Paris’ (FIA, 2014, p. 11). Two years later, Paris hosted the first Congrès International d’Automobilisme, coinciding with the World Exhibition in the French capital. In fact, it is argued, ‘Paris’ pioneering role in the development of the automobile was supported by the fact that Parisians widely and enduringly embraced the automobile until the 1970s’ (Schipper, 2008, p. 46).
To strengthen the relationship between racing and marketing, the ACF, which grew from 422 members in 1896 to 2261 in 1901 (Flink, 1988, p. 18), established its first Sporting Commission in 1899, dealing with ‘all issues related to road vehicle events’. This experience would give the French the lead in their subsequent collaboration with other national motoring clubs when organising cross-country races like the Paris-Madrid race in 1903 (FIA, 2014, p. 13), and, more importantly, was a decisive motivation for establishing AIACR in 1904. Besides adopting both the ACF’s guidelines for motoring and its president between 1904 and 1931, Baron de Zuylen de Nyevelt, the aristocrats forming the ACF in 1895 had purchased two large sections of the former Place Louis XV (currently Place de la Concorde)—which is still the FIA’s headquarters. The ACF remained in number 6...

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