People stand on top of buses to watching Formula One drivers in action during the practise session at the Buddh International circuit.(Vipin Kumar/HT photo)
The Federation of Motorsports Clubs of India does not figure among the 52 national sports federations recognised by the government of India.
The sports ministry, in a communication dated May 3, 2013, does not even mention the FMSCI in the list of Indian NSFs.
This is the crux of the problem that F1 faces when coming to India. Without recognition, the government cannot extend concessions like easier import of F1 equipment minus the bond amount of around Rs. 60 crore that organiser Jaypee Sports International has to cough up.
While Sameer Gaur, the MD of Jaypee Sports, and Vicky Chandhok, president of FMSCI, have criticised the lack of government support, the moot point is that sans official recognition no sports minister can accede to requests of aid.
Chandhok said that his federation is actively looking to sort out this problem: “The process of figuring in the ministry’s list has been underway for a year and a half. The FMSCI has never been derecognised as such but we have to comply with the ministry’s fresh set of guidelines and that will happen soon.”
Not cashing in
The Jaypee Group, while peeved at the government’s reluctance, has done little to lobby effectively at driving home the benefits accruing from Formula 1.
In the wake of the scandals emerging around the Commonwealth Games, it was Jaypee that gave Indians a real sense of pride and asserted the country’s strength as a venue for top-class global events with the successful conduct of what has to be the most technology-dependent modern sporting extravaganza.
However, it has failed to build on that goodwill and channelise it into support for the event. To the extent that now the Indian F1 is greeted with significant apathy by a majority of the country.
Terribly onerous and overbearing security even for the few national events that this circuit holds has seen Jaypee’s goodwill erode even among the more strident supporters of the sport in the Indian media.
The joke doing the rounds in the Indian speed community is that the Gaurs have buried some treasure in the middle of the track and hence the vault-like security.
For the man on the street, the Indian F1 circuit is like a fortress that discourages the aficionado. No measures are taken around the year to make the circuit a hub of events that will foster interest in racing and eventually translate into a loyal fan following. As such, it’s no surprise that nearly half the tickets have gone unsold for this edition.
Need to converge
F1 in India is a private venture by a business group which is looking to increase the value of its land holdings in the vicinity of the track by staging the GP. In light of this, the government is justified in not being too bothered.
But then, Jaypee officials say that the group is forced to contribute 10 crore to the National Sports Development Fund for each international event it wants to hold. This is unfair.
They also lament that the customs bond amount for last year has not been remitted till now. Even if there is no direct support, Indian politicians do need to wake up to the need to encourage what has been a windfall from the gods for the international image of this country.
But first and foremost, the FMSCI has to sort out its issues of recognition and then Jaypee has to get its act together to foster year-round fan interest before the Indian government and public embrace F1.