ONE OF the best lines ever committed to fiction was crafted by the late, great Douglas Adams in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and it went something like this:
“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
Now far be it for me to lift copy from one of the literary giants, but that phrase seemed just so appropriate for a report released this week that described the scope motorsport has around the world. So, with apologies to Mr Adams, I’ll start my column this week thusly:
Motorsport is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think your average Grand Prix is a big show, but that’s just peanuts to motorsport as a whole.
A 2019 study by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Motorsport’s global governing body, into the scale of the industry’s impact world-wide produced some frankly remarkable figures.
Now, sporting bodies are prone to public-relations based hyperbole designed purely to promote what they are trying to sell, but in this instance the numbers are just too big to ignore.
For example, in 2019 the sport had a global financial input of about $189 Billion of the United States finest greenbacks.
It’s easy to become immune to numbers like this when every second person online seems to be a Jeff Bezos in the making these days, so allow me to put it into context.
In 2019, just 16 nations posted a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than $1 Trillion dollars. If Motorsport’s economic input was a country, it would be the 53rd largest in the world, just behind Greece and in front of Qatar.
New Zealand, by the way, had a 2019 GDP of just over USD$200bn.
It’s a frankly remarkable figure and while it takes in both the direct spending generated by the sport and the more indirect stuff as well, I am sure you will agree it’s still pretty mind-boggling.
But wait, as the great TV ads used to say, There’s More.
According to the FIA more than 1.5 million jobs are supported by Motorsport around the world.
Walmart, currently the worlds largest employer, has just over 2.2 million people on their books, most of them probably making a damn sight less than your average racing car mechanic from Pukekohe.
The numbers keep rolling: there are currently more than 2.7 million active participants in the sport, for example.
In 2019 more than 60,000 events were staged around the world. When you take into account that the combined total of Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR and Supercars events held in the same period was just under 100, you again see the vast scale of this enterprise we all dearly love.
More than 300,000 people volunteer for the sport each year – by comparison, 110,000 stepped up to work for free at the last Olympic Games, which are kind of a big deal.
Look, I could rattle off these figures all day until your eyes were glazed over and you were crying for the mercy of watching paint dry. I get it.
But they are also hugely important because the more context we can offer alongside our sporting product the better, moreso to those who don’t understand it compared to those that actually do.
Motorsport will always be seen as the noisy, messy, polluting cousin to Soccer, Footy or the Olympics – but showing those doubters the economic might and remarkable influence our game has can only do us a world of good.
So, when someone next asks you ‘how big is motorsport?’, you know the answer.
Motorsport is big. Really big..