F1 at Francorchamps: a crazy public expense for an outdated toy

The text below was proposed to the Soir and the Libre Belgique for their respective forum and debates sections. Neither of these two media outlets saw fit to retain it for publication. So we decided to distribute it through our networks.

 

Should we go back to what Formula 1 represents when it should only be the shadow of a wasteful, structurally, environmentally and socially destructive past? F1 has no place in a friendly, socially balanced and environmentally responsible society. It represents a devastating cultural line that needs to be broken if we want to give ourselves a better chance for a happy future.

However, it appears that it could still have a bright future ahead of it. Indeed, not only does the Walloon Region, year after year, continue to pay off its deficits, but it also seems to ensure, through Minister Marcourt in particular (who says he is looking for a showcase for Wallonia(1)), that it extends its contract with Bernie Ecclestone(2). Unless this desire hides the fact that our Region cannot get rid of the secret 2006 contract that the Société de promotion du circuit de Francorchamps signed in English with the inescapable holder of the F1(3)The signatories did not know this language, as they themselves stated. Anyway, today we know that we will have F1 on our backs at least until 2015 included(4)! There is even talk of prolonging the affair without the Walloon Parliament having the slightest say. Even he has not yet been able to see the contract. This shows the limits of parliamentary control.

The cost of the operation, between 2007 and 2013, amounts to 82.45 million €(5)(including investments) at the expense of Walloon public funds! In short, an astronomical amount of money for an activity that we were at least assured would be an economic success. Indeed, when the GP was relaunched, in order to calm down the popular vindictiveness because of the more than 50 million € spent for the circuit repair and the financing of the billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, our politicians had pulled out of their hat a financial plan which announced a loss of money the first year, the balance the second and a profit the third, that is to say in 2008(6). We can see that this is not the case when we read in the press that the Walloon Region will have to cover « only » 6 million € for 2013.

Meanwhile, almost day after day, the Walloon Region and the Wallonia-Brussels Federation are looking for money to meet their chronic deficit and mission needs. Closing the budget for the next legislature is so difficult that it requires some very difficult trade-offs. An example allows to realize the weight of the 82,45 million € already spent for F1 compared to other necessities. The Walloon Region is looking for €55 million to create new school places(7). To achieve this, it is trying to set up a public-private partnership, but this arrangement is highly criticized by the Finance Inspectorate, and we cannot be certain that it will succeed.

On the other hand, things are likely to get even more complicated. The modern day gladiators, as the runners call themselves, are no longer in demand. They do not escape the questions raised about their dada at a time when the IPCC, in particular, sounds the alarm about global warming. The so-called « ecological » measures demanded by the European Parliament(8) and companies to reduce the carbon footprint of their game do not please(9). They are not part of the cultural reference system linked to F1, which is based on the excitement of « always going faster »(10). The audience rate of the GPs is decreasing all over the world(11), which would be very good news for us if it wasn’t for this absurd contract signed by the Walloon Region.

The next GP will be held on August 22–23-24. Let’s hope that on this occasion the Walloon Parliament will finally dare to set up the necessary commission of inquiry into the scandalous contract between the Walloon Region and Ecclestone, in order to get rid of it as soon as possible.

We do not want to be dumbed down by  » panem et circenses « . We are interested in our collective destiny. F1 has no place there.

 

Michèle Gilkinet, former federal parliamentarian

Paul Lannoye, President of the Grappe and Honorary Member of the European Parliament

Bernard Legros, teacher and essayist

Christine Pagnoulle, lecturer University of Liege, ATTAC-Liege

Alexandre Penasse, editor-in-chief of Kairos, anti-productivist journal for a decent society

Eddie Vanhassel, teacher

Notes et références
  1. http://www.spa-francorchamps.be/fr/archives_details.php?id=147
  2. http://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_f1-a-francorchamps-contrat-signe-pour-trois-annees-supplementaires?id=7826180
  3. Monsieur Ecclestone est actuellement poursuivi en Allemagne pour corruption. Le procès est en cours depuis avril 2014 http://www.liberation.fr/sports/2014/04/24/le-patron-de-la-formule-1-bernie-ecclestone-juge-pour-corruption_1003480
  4. http://www.lesoir.be/14556/article/sports/sports-mecaniques/2012–07-08/f1-gp-belgique-maintenu-jusqu’en-2015
  5. http://www.dhnet.be/actu/economie/le-grand-prix-de-f1-ne-coute-plus-que-six-millions-53a51cef3570c0e7433e2771
  6. http://www.grappebelgique.be/spip.php?article1391
  7. http://www.7sur7.be/7s7/fr/1502/Belgique/article/detail/1774355/2014/01/15/De-nouvelles-places-dans-les-ecoles-Le-budget-wallon-en-peril.dhtml
  8. http://www.lejdd.fr/Ecologie/Actualite/La-F1-passe-en-mode-durable-89690
  9. http://sports.orange.fr/f1/ferrari-menace-de-quitter-la-f1-newsweb-sports_CNT0000002FXAJ.html
  10. « Pour Bernie Ecclestone, grand « patron » de la formule 1, mais qui reste soumis aux règles dictées par la FIA, la volonté de cette dernière de surfer sur la vague écolo-médiatique en imposant à la F1 ce genre de contrainte va tout simplement la dénaturer, « lui faire perdre son âme », et faire disparaître le rêve qu’elle représente » http://www.automobile-propre.com/2011/06/09/f1-revolution-verte-formule‑1/
  11. http://www.auto123.com/fr/course-automobile/f1-la-categorie-souffre-dun-declin-de-son-audience-tv?artid=168461
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