Leadership – that's the key element that is both at fault and also scarce in the sorry situation that the Supercars category finds itself in on the eve of the 2024 season.
For crying out loud, they're about to kick off without the current Champion Driver whilst also seemingly haemorrhaging high-quality sponsors from the sport. Meanwhile, under the surface, all sorts of stories circulate regarding the reasons why this is happening.
One of the very basic components of good leadership is the ability to self-examine properly on the basis that you can't put something right if you don't admit there's something wrong in the first place.
Today, the sport finds itself with both a team and the category management living in some sort of bubble whilst evidently in denial.
Meanwhile, the fans, the sponsors, the media partners, even the other teams, plus, of course, Brodie deserve to see the 2023 Champion on the grid this year doing what he does best, namely racing.
A team that loses its biggest sponsors overnight is a team in disarray. Let's not deny it. Nobody planned that to happen. So clearly something is deeply wrong. Denial of the issues won't help rectify them.
Sporting teams in other disciplines have had major implosions in the past. This is not new. In fact, it's happened in Supercars several times in the last 15 years. At such points, it's incumbent upon the code management to step in and to help reach resolution. In other words, to show leadership.
I will be as clear as I can be. This is not an issue of mental health, as alluded to by Supercars, at least not on the part of Brodie. This is a case of what appears to be a toxic workplace. Other teams and Supercars have seen evidence of this in the past. For instance, some 18 months ago an email (addressed to pretty much everyone involved in Gen3 development) emanated from the team in question that was so venomous that the CEO of Supercars was obliged to step in and attempt to smooth the waters. But long-term damage was done. That's just one example. There are others.
If a mental health issue is defined as someone being unable to cope with a noxious workplace then maybe I'm wrong. But in my judgement the probability is that any mental health issues lie with those that create such a workplace, not those who find it hard to be a part of it.
And so, the bottom line is that it falls to Supercars to be very proactive in resolving the situation that the category finds itself in right now. That entails leadership of the highest level.
Brodie should be on the grid as soon as possible. If that means a change of team, then make that happen. It's happened in other categories over the years at short notice. There are tools at Supercars' disposal that they can use. Have the guts to use them if necessary and ensure that the best interests of the sport as a whole are upheld.
If changes are needed within a team to keep it viable and in business then help as much as possible, but not at the expense of team personnel who feel uncomfortable there.
Furthermore, high-quality sponsors are hard to come by for motorsport in general and again, if some corporates are uncomfortable in one place, then work to place them elsewhere. Don't lose them to the numerous other opportunities outside the sport that they'll all undoubtedly have.
Never forget that the overall public face of Supercars, and ALL the teams, is at stake here. Over the years, whilst there have been behavioural issues in other codes (such as the NRL), Supercars has stood tall with an excellent public image projected by the teams and drivers. That needs to be maintained. Several substantial sponsors have made the comparison to me over the years and emphasised how it casts our sport in a favourable light.
Ultimately, if a sporting team chooses not to read the tea leaves and make changes as necessary, then it should fold, like any other business that isn't well-run. But not before the category management has tried to assist to sort the problem. In this case, there are surely some positives in there somewhere, given the successes of 2023. It would be great to see them allowed to flourish.
Unfortunately, Supercars management, and the RACE board that ultimately controls the category, show no sign of having the leadership skills in place to handle the Kostecki Affair. And that's a crying shame but also a reflection of the other issues in the category.
With all due respect to The Wiggles, industry-wide mirth greeted the announcement last week that they'd be the pre-event headline act for the Bathurst 500. This is only the latest in a series of own goals by RACE.
I'm in the desert in the UAE as I write this, but I'm not the one with my head in the sand. Ultimately, it's the shareholders of RACE who appear to be in denial. They have the power to make the changes that are needed including, it would seem, to their own board.
I only hope that someone somewhere can show leadership whilst pulling this situation together and putting Brodie onto the grid without further ado. It would be tremendous if that happened even before this column is published and therefore made my words somewhat redundant.