FIA disputes EU tobacco ruling

At a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Monaco this week it was agreed for the FIA to send a letter to David Byrne, the EU Health Commissioner, in regard to the proposal to bring forward the ban on tobacco sponsorship. The ban was ...

At a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Monaco this week it was agreed for the FIA to send a letter to David Byrne, the EU Health Commissioner, in regard to the proposal to bring forward the ban on tobacco sponsorship. The ban was originally to come into force in 2006 but the EU has bought the date forward to 2005. The FIA expressed concerns that the ruling could be detrimental to motor sport -- there has even been speculation that Formula One could abandon any events in the EU completely in the future.

"The World Motor Sport Council unanimously authorised the FIA President to send a letter to Mr David Byrne, the EU Health Commissioner, copied to members of the European Parliament and EU Health Ministers," said a statement released after the meeting.

"The letter made clear to Mr Byrne that the decision of the European Union to implement the proposed ban of tobacco advertising and sponsorship as from July 2005 rather than October 2006, as previously agreed by the EU, threatens to disrupt international motor sport in the EU and undermine efforts to agree a world wide ban of tobacco sponsorship at the end of 2006."

It was agreed to scrap the Belgian Grand Prix from the 2003 F1 calendar after the Belgian government introduced its own ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship. The decision was seen as a warning to other countries that may decide to follow suit before the EU's ruling comes into force. However, with the EU ban being bought forward a year the FIA feels it could damage the FI economy.

In the letter to Mr Byrne, FIA President Max Mosley said that teams had been working on the principal that the ban would come into force in 2006 and bringing it forward was an irresponsible move on behalf of the EU: "Frankly the FIA is astonished at the inconsistency of the Commission's behaviour. To change the date of implementation was gratuitous and irresponsible." The letter also stated the date of introducing the ban was not an issue of concern to the European Court of Justice so there was no reason to change it.

Another EU race is expected to be dropped in 2004 to make way for Grands Prix in China and Bahrain. Turkey and Russia are bidding to host future events and there is no shortage of countries wanting to join the F1 calendar. While some would welcome the removal of races where tobacco advertising is banned, Jaguar Racing Director Sir Jackie Stewart warned that many teams would find moving away from Europe a problem.

"We have to be very careful of jeopardising the foundations of the economics surrounding Formula One," he told Reuters. "To remove Formula One from the European mainland would be difficult for any of the teams to be able to deal with. Most of them have connections with multi-national companies that have very significant European markets."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jackie Stewart , David Byrne
Teams Jaguar Racing