Two weeks from today, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile will have a new president for the first time in 12 years. The two candidates hoping to succeed Jean Todt as the leader of motorsport’s governing body are Graham Stoker and Mohammed Ben Sulayem. It isn’t surprising if you have never heard of either candidate before. Neither candidate has an international profile in the same area code as Todt’s when the former Scuderia Ferrari team principal announced his candidacy.
This weekend, I’ll help you better know each candidate, their backgrounds and their campaign platforms. I’ll profile Graham Stoker today and Mohammed Ben Sulayem tomorrow. It seems natural to lead with Stoker. While there are no political parties within the FIA per se, Stoker has been the Deputy President for Sport during the entire Todt presidency. Stoker’s candidacy is a spiritual continuation of Todt’s direction of the federation.
Graham Stoker is a 69-year old lawyer from the United Kingdom, specializing in sports law. His career in motorsport began when he volunteered as a steward for what-is-now Motorsport UK during the 1980s. Stoker rose through the ranks and was elected the first Chairman of the Permanent Stewards to the British Touring Car Championship from 1995 until 2001. In 2001, he was elected to lead Motorsport UK.
Stoker would also be elected to his first position with the FIA in 2001. He became a judge on the International Court of Appeal, the supreme court of the FIA’s internal judiciary. He is also credited with saving the British Grand Prix the same year. He presented a report to the World Motor Sport Council that led to essential infrastructure renovations at Silverstone Circuit.
2001 was simply the start of a highly-regarded career at the FIA. He would eventually become President of the International Court of Appeal, President of the FIA Anti-Doping Commission and Britain’s member on the World Motor Sport Council. He was also a steward at numerous FIA events, including Formula One Grands Prix. This very active period culminated with becoming Jean Todt’s running mate in 2009.
Graham Stoker’s presidential platform titled “FIA For All” aims to strengthen the FIA to face future challenges by supporting its member clubs. This is not at all an unusual approach to campaigning. Member clubs elect the FIA President, so pledging to help member clubs is the most apparent method to earn votes.
Collaboration is a significant aspect of Stoker’s platform. He pledged to create a Calendars Commission for every FIA-sanctioned motorsport championship to cooperate and avoid major conflicts on the international motorsport calendar. Stoker would also like the commercial rights holders of each FIA championship to collaborate on a single global campaign to promote motorsport as a whole.
Stoker would also like the FIA to develop closer ties with its member clubs by creating a Club Motor Sport Commission. Ideally, FIA staff would be able to visit clubs worldwide, and club staff would be welcome to visit the FIA at its headquarters in Paris, France and Geneva, Switzerland.
A Stoker-led FIA would take a more active role in making entry-level motorsport more accessible and affordable. Through public/private partnerships, the FIA would establish local and regional young driver academies and a global development fund. Ten percent of the FIA’s income would be devoted to the fund with matching contributions from corporate sponsors. Finally, the FIA would create a Diversity and Inclusion Commission similar to the successful Women in Motorsport Commission.
While most of Graham Stoker’s platform is about the future, he acknowledges the FIA’s duty to protect the history of the automobile and motorsport. He feels the organization should promote historical research as well as preserve historic motorsport and historic car ownership. He also stated that the FIA should remain a non-profit organization and stay on its current premises on the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Graham Stoker has a manifesto that ambitiously hopes to have the FIA continue to play an active role on the world stage while not making changes in course that would be considered overly radical. Overly radical compared to his opponent Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the first non-European to run for FIA President.