DECEMBER 15, 1997
Continuing problems for Belgium...
The Belgian race organizers now have a real problem as the country's parliamentarians are refusing to give way and are talking about legal action if the FIA takes away the race. How a case could be constructed remains a mystery.
The Belgian law does not come into effect until January ,1 1999 but the FIA is unhappy that it will mean an immediate end to tobacco sponsorship and will not allow the current contract between the FIA and Spa to be respected. As there are clauses in the FIA contracts which negate the deal if tobacco bans come into effect the 1998 race is in danger.
The problem is being exacerbated because some of the Belgian politicians want to be seen to stand up to FIA threats rather than to buckle under as other governments have done. Unfortunately they do not realize that the FIA has no intention of backing down - even if it means the loss of Spa from the World Championship. The Belgian politicians are under pressure within Belgium because of the economic impact of the loss of the race in the Ardennes region.
Lawyers representing the tourist boards and hotel owners of the Spa region are expected to try to have the anti-tobacco law suspended by the Cour d'Arbitrage, Belgium's appeal court, claiming that it contravenes the commercial clauses of the Treaty of Rome. If this fails a similar action may be taken to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.