We have some of the world’s most iconic events, now we need to identify
and develop the best young talent – Sulayem
Aimed at attracting a steady flow of new young competitors, the report says this can be achieved only through a structured collaboration between national motor sport authorities (ASNs), government, commercial race track owners and the FIA, the sport’s world governing body.
Characterising motor sport in the region currently as an ‘older male’ sport with significant ‘barriers to entry’, the study points to most ASNs appearing to be without a clear plan to identify and develop young talent.
Based on interviews with motor sport licence holders and leisure karting drivers, it says young enthusiasts need a ‘role model’, and calls on ASNS to set aside a budget for carefully planned social media campaigns to reach them.
Commissioned by Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA regional Vice President for Sport, the report is being compiled through ongoing research in the UAE by a team led by Professor David Hassan, one of the world’s leading experts in sport management.
Professor Hassan, Associate Dean at Ulster University in the UK, presented the initial findings at last week’s FIA Sport Regional Congress for the Middle East and North Africa in Muscat.
The research says ASNS must accept a need for ongoing promotion that appeals directly to young people on the basis that, without effective social media ‘you do not exist’.
“The ultimate aim is to find ways to bring a steady flow of young people into motor sport in the MENA region, and develop the best talent to produce our own world champions,” said Sulayem, President of the Emirates Motorsports Organization (EMSO).
“As the study points out, we do host some of the world’s most iconic motorsport events, with the F1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, as well as the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
“While there is a link between hosting major events, like an F1 GP, and increased participation, it doesn’t happen without a plan. This will be given top priority based on the overall findings when the study is completed within the next six weeks.”
Preliminary findings from the study showed that only 15% of motor sport licence holders in the UAE are aged 21 or younger, and less than 20% are ‘new’ to the sport, having been competing for three years or less. In contrast, over 50% have been competing for ten years or more
A big majority(83%) of respondents want to see more structured driver support from their ASN, 73% would like to see more events being organised, while 47% placed importance on more government support. Almost all would be pleased to support new drivers via a mentorship scheme.
Professor Hassan presented the findings to officials from 20 MENA region national motor sport authorities, as well as by FIA President Jean Todt, at last week’s Muscat congress.