MARCH 8, 1999
Pollock battles on...
BRITISH AMERICAN RACING representatives will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday to appear before the FIA World Motor Sport Council to answer allegations that the new team breached the International Sporting Code and the FIA Statutes during its dispute with the governing body over whether or not it could run cars in different liveries.
The World Council has the power to reprimand the team, hit it with a large fine, suspend it from several races or even ban it from F1 completely. The current feeling in the F1 paddock is that the team will face a short-term ban of between one and three races as the FIA is very upset about BAR's complaint against the FIA to the European Commission's Competition Directorate.
BAR boss Craig Pollock began to make conciliatory noises in Australia, telling international journalists that the complaint has now been withdrawn. "Everything with the EU has been withdrawn," he said. "What we are trying to do is to start off with a clean sheet and worry about the races and the future of the sport."
But while Pollock is publicly trying to build bridges with the FIA, in private there is still a battle raging and there are moves going on which seem to challenge the authority of the governing body. Pollock recently sent a letter to each of the rival team owners saying that British American Racing reserves the right to challenge the economic structure of the Concorde Agreement. At the moment only the top 10 teams are given a slice of the money generated by the sale of Formula 1's TV rights. BAR is the 11th team in F1 and as a result is receiving nothing.
A challenge to the Concorde Agreement is an inconvenience for Bernie Ecclestone who is in the process of finalizing the details of his planned Formula 1 bond issue. This is designed to raised around $2bn and to pave the way for an eventual flotation of Ecclestone's Formula One Holdings company. Bernie did not make the trip to Melbourne this year, cancelling his plans at the last minute amid speculation that he is trying to get the final stages of negotiation for the sale of the bonds sorted out before Pollock can stir up trouble.
There is virtually no support for Pollock among the other F1 team owners. It has become clear in recent weeks that the TV revenues are rather lower than had been expected and the team bosses have no desire to reduce their share still further. We have heard vague stories - probably put out by BAR - that there are TV revenues being generated on the Internet, which do not appear to be covered by the Concorde Agreement.
Pollock's aggressive attitude towards Ecclestone and the FIA is a high-risk strategy because it is more likely that he will become a victim of the game, rather than bringing about a revolution in the sport. There is no hope of success unless he has the solid support of the other F1 teams.
The only logical explanation for the challenge to the Concorde Agreement is that Pollock thinks that by putting the bond issue in jeopardy he can pressure Ecclestone into arguing for a lighter punishment for the team when the World Council meets in Geneva. It is a brave move but it is likely to misfire because Ecclestone may simple brush off the challenge and argue that BAR should receive an even bigger punishment. And that could be very bad news for Pollock. At the moment he seems to have the full support of British American Tobacco, but the tobacco giant is not in F1 to fight political battles. BAT wants to use F1 to sell cigarettes and if the politicking gets in the way of that aim, Pollock could quite easily find himself in the firing line.
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