Formula Equal could be the newest face of sportswashing
The GIST: How about some good news with a side of bad news? Earlier this week, motorsports exec Craig Pollock publicized plans for Formula Equal, a Formula One (F1) team that’s 50% male and 50% female from the racetrack to the boardroom…and could be the newest face of sportswashing.
The details: Pollock has been secretly working on Formula Equal for the last four years but recently confirmed submission of a bid to enter the championship. F1 governing body FIA opened apps this year for “one or more” teams to join in 2025, 2026 or 2027 and will require an estimated entry fee of $1B.
The funding: The exec is in conversations with an unspecified “Gulf area country” to finance Formula Equal, saying he “hope[s] it’s going to work because … it does take a lot of money.” However, Pollock did not comment on his team potentially becoming a shiny new sportswashing example. Convenient.
- Some speculate the unnamed nation is Saudi Arabia because of its public F1 ambitions — it hosted an inaugural Grand Prix in 2021 and is building another racetrack in hopes of hosting two yearly F1 events.
The context: F1 doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to sportswashing, regularly catching flak for staging races in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Azerbaijan. Just this month, human rights advocacy group Reprieve said the championship “has never seriously engaged with human rights.” Black flag.
Zooming out: No one’s happier than F1 to slap logos on any available sponsorship inventory, and the championship’s new revenue heights have inadvertently created an ideal scenario for sportswashing. A $1B entry fee may price out wealthy individuals, and F1 is very inviting to nations with appalling human rights records.
- It also begs the question: Will brands avoid striking deals with Formula Equal because of its potential financial backer, or will they also ignore accusations of sportswashing and continue to pour money into F1? Only time will tell.