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Mosley fires new shots in F1-EU battle

FIA President Max Mosley has launched another attack on the European Commission Competition Department, in an effort to end the deadlock that exists in the current dispute over whether or not the FIA is abusing a monopoly position in Formula 1. "The European Commission's competition people don't understand sport," said Mosley. "They are actively encouraging the creation of a multitude of competing and conflicting governing bodies in Formula 1, like in boxing - with the same level of chaos resulting. The question we have to ask the Commission is, do they intend to apply this approach to the Olympic Games as well? Can you imagine having three or four separate international governing bodies for the Olympic Games worldwide?

"European President Romano Prodi promised a few months ago to be more in touch with the people of Europe - yet what are his civil servants planning to do? Destroy a sport that is one of the most popular in Europe and is so intrinsically European. Perhaps it is time for sports fans - and F1 fans in particular - to contact the Commissioner from their own country and ask why the European Commission wants to destroy something that is so popular with the public."

Mosley went on to say that the European Commission civil servants in Brussels seem to believe that the world begins and ends with the European Union and asked whether or not the other 104 member countries of the FIA have any rights.

The FIA is now threatening to vote through a resolution that will treat Europe not as a number of different countries but as one single nation. This would mean that Europe could host only one or two World Championship events in the future. The individual European members clubs would then be members of a European Competition Committee and this would deal with European issues at the FIA. This would be a similar situation to that of the United States which has eight different motor racing governing bodies which are all members of an organization called the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States (ACCUS) which looks after all US interests at the FIA.

If this were the case, it would unlikely that there would be more than two or three events in Europe in a year as the most races to be held in the same country in the same year was three in the United States in 1982 when there were events in Long Beach, Detroit and Las Vegas. Monaco and Hungary are, of course, not members of the European Union and so would not be included in the system. The remaining nine races would have to be squeezed down into three and that would mean that in all likelihood World Championship events would become rotational between countries.

Europe would thus end up with four or five races in all (three plus Monaco and Hungary) if Mosley does carry out his threat. While this would be a radical step, it would not be a complete disaster for Formula 1 because there would still be enough races to maintain interest in the sport in Europe. However with only six non-European events at the moment it would still mean that the FIA would have to find an extra four or five events around the world. With Europe remaining F1's biggest audience, the best place for races from a timing point of view would be Africa and the Middle East. There are serious plans for races in South Africa and Dubai and vague projects in Morocco, Egypt and the Lebanon. Other countries which could become involved are non-EU European nations such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Norway, Turkey and the Baltic Republics, although they may not all be able to fund races. Russia is keen to get a race and there are also projects in India and China.

In the Americas there is some possibility for expansion with a strong possibility of a second US race, and races in Argentina and Mexico which need only finance to make them work.

It is unlikely that Mosley's threat will be carried out but if the European Commission continues to block all attempts to compromise it will become more and more likely as attitudes harden. Mosley is hoping that national governments will put pressure on the Commission to stop the battle. The FIA and the Commission are due to meet for an oral hearing on the competition issue in Brussels between May 10 and May 12. The EU is currently refusing to allow the media to attend the event although the FIA says it would like the meeting to be public.

The FIA has decided that it will not renew any contracts with EU races until the dispute is settled. This is bad news for those which are coming up for renewal, notably Imola, Germany, France and Austria.

The FIA is hoping to raise support from other sporting bodies such as the International Olympic Committee and the International Amateur Athletics Federation at a conference on sports government in Paris in the autumn.

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