The former boss of Formula One has criticised the decision by its new owners to scrap grid girls.
Bernie Ecclestone says he cannot see why a “good-looking” woman standing next to a driver at the start of a race could be “offensive”.
The 87-year-old tycoon told The Sun it was a sign the UK was becoming “prudish”.
It came after Liberty Media, the sport’s organiser, said the custom of using women on start lines was “clearly… at odds with modern day societal norms“.
The women are often seen carrying the drivers’ standards which indicate their race numbers and their location on the starting line.
They also often line the route that the top three drivers take as they head to the podium at the end of a race.
Ecclestone, who ran F1 for more than three decades, said: “These girls were part of the show. Fans love the glamour.
This is actually a very key point. Worse than this would be if it suggests that victorious men can avail themselves of the girls on display, which is a subliminal message that has always been difficult to avoid. Big discussion. #F1 #gridgirls https://t.co/NfoEyMo8Pi
— Damon Hill (@HillF1) February 1, 2018
“The country at the moment is getting a bit prudish.
“You should be allowed to have grid girls because the drivers like them, the audience like them and no one cares. These girls were… part of the spectacle.
“I can’t see how a good-looking girl standing with a driver and a number in front of a Formula One car can be offensive to anybody.”
So the inevitable has happened, F1 gridgirls have been banned. Ridiculous that women who say they are “fighting for women’s rights” are saying what others should and shouldn’t do, stopping us from doing a job we love and are proud to do. PC gone mad 😡 #Gridgirls
— Rebecca Cooper (@rebeccageldard) January 31, 2018
Sean Bratches, managing director of commercial operations at F1, said on Wednesday: “While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 grands prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms.
“We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world.”
It is not the first time Mr Ecclestone, who became a billionaire as a result of his investment in the sport, has made statements about the participation of women in F1.
No one is saying women shouldn’t be allowed to do whatever they want career wise. Literally no one. It is the *concept* of grid girls and what it represents that is the issue. And if you truly don’t understand why it is an issue then, quite frankly, yikes.
— Alice (@countvoncrash) January 31, 2018
In 2016, he told an advertising conference that female drivers would “not be taken seriously” in Formula One and they are “not physically” able to drive cars that fast.
Several so-called grid girls have leaped to the defence of those who stand to lose their jobs as a result of the move.
Lauren-Jade Pope, a “grid girl and promo model”, tweeted: “Because of these feminists, they’ve have cost us our jobs! I have been a grid girl for 8 years and I have Never felt uncomfortable! I love my job, if I didn’t I wouldn’t do it! Noone forces us to do this! This is our choice!”
I love my job. I’m respected, paid well & proud to represent the team I’m working for. It’s not right for anyone, let alone ‘feminists’ to judge our job when quite frankly they are putting so many women out of work. Where is the equality & empowerment here? #GridGirls #F1 💛🏁 pic.twitter.com/ookyjB1A8Q
— Lucy Stokes (@LucyStokes_) January 31, 2018
Rebecca Cooper, another grid girl, said on Twitter: “If we don’t do something to stop this where will it end? No grid girls, no cheerleaders, female singers being told what to wear on stage, no models in magazines?! I’ll fight for my right to choose what I wear, where I work and to keep a job I love. I’ll #fightformyrighttochoose”.
The organisers of some of darts’ biggest tournaments, the Professional Darts Corporation, also recently decided to stop using walk-on girls.
A Sky News online poll asking people if they thought walk-on girls should be banned from all sports found 17% in favour and 83% against, after nearly 13,000 votes.