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OCTOBER 27, 2000

Why Silverstone should be given National Lottery money

THE battle over the British Grand Prix and the need for Silverstone to invest large sums of money in infrastructure has led to questions being asked about why motor racing has not received any money from the British National Lottery. The lottery has been in operation since the end of 1994 and has increased from one draw a week to the current three. It had created nearly 1000 millionaires in that period and raised nearly $40bn. Half of this money is set aside as prize money while the government has taken around $5.2bn in tax and Camelot, the company which owns the franchise to organize the lottery, has made $1.6bn and $11.2bn has been handed out to "good causes".

According to the charter when the lottery was established the available money for good causes is divided up between the arts, sports, British heritage, charities and the Millennium Commission by The National Lottery Charities Board. This 17-member board is chaired by Lady Brittan and features members appointed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Since the National Lottery Act in 1998 there has also been a New Opportunities Fund which is distributed by a public body called the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. The money which had been spent on millennium projects will now go to this new fund.

Sport is currently receiving around $225m a year although the total overall expenditure on sport between 1994 and 1999 was $1.2bn. To date no major sums of money have been spent on motor racing. There have been no attempts publicized attempts to help fund young racing drivers who do not have the money needed to compete and no large payments to upgrade facilities. Nor has there been any money spent on the sport from the NESTA funding, despite the fact that Grand Prix racing is one of the most successful high technology businesses in Britain, generating considerable foreign earnings and employing a large number of people. Formula 1 is one of the most popular sports in Britain these days, which adds to the mystery of why the government has refused to allow any money to go to the sport.

Obviously matters have not been helped by the problems between F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and the Labour Government over Ecclestone's political donation to the party but this should not be allowed to effect the growth of the sport in Britain.

An investment in Silverstone would help Britain to retain a Grand Prix every year and considering the scale of money which has been invested in other sports over the years it would not be unfair. A grant of $50m would enable Silverstone to complete the work it dreams or doing, improving the necessary access and building new facilities.

Considering that the majority of countries now hosting Grands Prix received considerable aid from national, regional or local authorities, it is not outrageous for British race fans to feel cheated by the government...