Playing spoilsport with Formula One?

September 1, 2009

Despite the Force India team taking second place at the podium at the Belgian Grand Prix there is no rethinking in the sports ministry on its view that Formula One is not enough of a sport.

Sports minister M.S. Gill congratulated Vijay Mallya on his team’s win but labelled Formula One as ‘expensive entertainment’.

The sports ministry has refused approval to the promoters of Formula 1 in India, JPSK Sports, to pay 1.7 billion rupees to the Formula One Administration for the proposed Indian Grand Prix of 2011.

The ministry has reasoned that the Formula One race “does not satisfy conditions which focus on human endeavour for excelling in competition with others, keeping in view the whole sports movement from Olympic downwards.”

It wrote to the promoters that Formula One is not purely sports, it is entertainment and the venture by JPSK Sports was a commercial initiative.

The sports ministry’s argument stands on two legs. Formula One is expensive entertainment and the outcome is determined by technology hence it is not ‘pure sports’.

Is sport supposed to be boring — that’s a question which can be posed at least rhetorically?

Sports like golf and tennis aren’t exactly cheap sports I can play in my backyard, assuming I had one.

As for human endeavour in Formula One, former world champion Michael Schumacher couldn’t return to the sport because of fitness concerns. Surely there is more to Formula One than just zippy cars and technology.

Technology and better training determine the outcome in all sports. Use of polyurethane swimsuits has been debated in swimming.

Commercialisation of sports has for long been debated. Cricket is probably one of the most commercialised sports in India.

Should we go back to some pristine version of the game when it was played on the village greens?

Cricket is heavily tilted in favour of batsmen because the gentry used to bat and the commoners used to bowl when the game was evolving, according to a school text book I chanced upon once.

Can any sport be divorced from its social context? Are there any sports in the country which can be called ‘purely sports’?

Commercialisation and flow of money in sports has surely helped sportsmen get by better.

Periodicals have carried stories of old sports warhorses living the last days of their lives in penury.

Sports certainly became respectable in the middle-class society I grew up in after they linked up with money.

Otherwise sports was for the academic losers and failures, seen as the cause as well as the effect.

India’s absence in most sporting arenas didn’t help either.

My six-storey school building did not even have a playground. It was built over for the science labs.

The Olympics, mentioned by the sports ministry, have allowed professional athletes to compete in certain sports like tennis since 1988.

Is the ministry’s view justified?


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

The Sports Minister’s view that Formula 1 racing is not sport is pretty strange, to say the least. A sport, the way I see it, should have 2 criteria: 1. It should involve skill of the participants and 2. It should be competitive in nature. In F1, both these criteria are achieved.It is not merely the technological aspects of the car that plays a role in winning an F1 race, it is also the driver’s skill. If merely technology played a dominating role in deciding the winner, Luca Badoer of Ferrari, despite driving one of the best cars in F1, would not have finished last in 2 races, would he? The difference in the levels of technology among the top teams is miniscule. What finally counts is the driver’s skill in racing a car. Frankly, can any Tom, Dick or Harry just get into an F1 car and win a race? Certainly not!Secondly, F1 is a competition. Points are awarded for the top 8 racers. The one with the most points at the end of the season is crowned champion.Moreover, can’t sporting events be means of entertainment? Why should they be mutually exclusive?Strange are the ways of the Sports Ministry!

Posted by Sanjay Karanth | Report as abusive

So I guess the Ministry will still take some time to come out of stone ages mindset.

Posted by Vibhum | Report as abusive

This guy is a joker… why on earth do we have an over-aged guy as a “Sports” minister…

Posted by Shree | Report as abusive

A Sports embodies something that the masses can relate to, or in other words can themselves play. I dont think any tom, dick and harry can do that. It hence becomes an expensive entertainment where a select few I mean a very select few, can actually play. For a country like India until it generates any revenue for the masses it should not be permitted. Unfortunately my previous statement is too idealistic, since there is a good chance that government may share the revenues and still permit it as a sport. Just for the record, I am a big fan of Formula One / Michael Schumacher / Ferrari; myself having in person watched a F1 race at Indianapolis. I believe it is not a sport but entertainment for the privileged. I would be happy to see India host a race but I agree with the arguement that its not a sport but purely commercial entertainment.

Posted by Mayuresh | Report as abusive

Its not the question of whether it is a sport or not.It is a question of whether it needs a benefit like an Olympic sport or any other sport in need.Why cant they pay whatever tax a corporate / business house would pay and then pay the money to F1.Every money earned by Govt is important and I don’t see why F1 has to be excluded from that as a SPORT.Clearly, all non olympic sport will be treated on a case by case basis. cricket, chess and wanna-be-Olympic sports can be exceptions. But not all sporting events. I strongly support that.Media or even mass cannot dictate what is right or wrong.Only when people like Malaya and this author start supporting boxers and archers instead of the glamorized sports that spend dollors to create media hype we will win more medals in Olympics.

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive

sports minister is talking about & still living in 19 century

Posted by sunil jain | Report as abusive

First question – why do we even have a Sports minister?

Posted by Baba Ghanoush | Report as abusive

Mr. Gill is clearly showing his incompetence and lack of knowledge about this particular aspect. Its time these old bags found their way to the grave and opened the gates for new younger generation or atleast more broad minded personalities. F1 is as much sport as any other if not more and the government is clearly not thinking about all the revenues brought about with tourists etc that will be comin here not only to see the sport but can & WILL combine their trip for vacation purposes hance greatly increasing the revenue brought in to the country . But unfortunately narrow minded personalities in the government fail to expand the growth of our country.Here’s a suggestion Mr. Mallya why dont you run for cabinet and if your party rules try your hand in the sports ministry 😉 hehe :).

Posted by Liana Cooper | Report as abusive

The guys works for government don’t have and don’t need to be in touch with real world. They are the highly incompetent people who get the job through political influence, relation, bribes etc.Does anyone know what is the sports record of M.S. Gill?Did he win any medal at national/state level, at least one in his life time?

Posted by gvk | Report as abusive

@Only when people like Malaya and this author start supporting boxers and archers instead of the glamorized sports that spend dollors to create media hype we will win more medals in Olympics.”- Posted by Tony-Quite true. But what you suggested can also happen even while supporting F1 and other such sports (where are other busines houses?). Both Olympic and non-olympic sports bring India into the interantional focus.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

I just love all the knee jerk reaction – not a considered nor objective opinion -The Sports minister is spot on – It ain’t pure sport – It has elemements of sport – but is far more reliant on other eleatist elements -I watch it every second week and enjoy it – but in the grander scheme of things it’s little more than macho froth !!

Posted by db | Report as abusive

though the sports minister’s logic has flaws. but his refusal to sponser that event is correct. there are many more better sports which need those funds currently.

Posted by ajay | Report as abusive

I’ll make 2 distinct points here:1. It is the hollow mindset of people like Mr. Gill that had killed sports in India. The promotion of all sports and allocation of higher funds is long long overdue – in whichever field it may be.Education, Sports and Individual (personal) Taxation are the 3 fields that have received step-motherly treatment by the ruling Congress party in the past 45+ years it ruled. It’s high time our politicians came down from their pedestal of OLD SCHOOL THOUGHT and changed with time. F1 is here to stay – whether Mr Gill LIKES IT OR NOT !!!!At least the tourism dept will be benefited from the revenues F1 will generate if it is started in India.Mr Gill, Isn’t Sky-Diving a sport ? If it is, it’s definatley not played in our backyard – and again, it is NOT CHEAP – by any yardstick. So, why the double standard ?Wake up to the reality – Mr Gill.2. Another change that India needs is to show the door to people holding political posts after the age of 58. If the constitution has to be ammended – so be it !!!Young minds are needed to change the anarchic COLONIAL laws of bygone eras at the earliest.This change will improve the quality of the political system in India as more and more young people enter the political space. Lets TRY to make it more professional and transparent, responsible and accountable ….. even if it means to fix a retirement age for all politicians.”Lead India” and other such institutions can take a bold step in this direction and ensure that such a constitutional ammendment is made at the earliest.This is the time to “BE THE CHANGE” …..All political parties should nominate young candidates and that will usher in the change …..

Posted by Arvind Joshi | Report as abusive