Monti applauds FIA reorganization

THE European Commissioner for Competition Mario Monti has applauded the efforts of the FIA, the governing body of world motor sport, to reorganize itself in line with Europe's complicated competition regulations. Monti, speaking at a conference on sports governance in Brussels said that other sports need to look at the FIA example to avoid trouble in the future.

"There is no doubt that sport, in its economic aspect, is subject to Community law," said Monti. "The European Court of Justice has ruled on several occasions that sport is subject to Community law insofar as it constitutes an economic activity."

Monti added that the Commission's competition rules must only apply to the economic activities generated by sport but that separating sport and business was not an easy task.

"The Commission is not, in general, concerned with genuine 'sporting rules'. Rules, without which a sport could not exist, should not, in principle, be subject to the application of EC competition rules. Sporting rules applied in an objective, transparent and non-discriminatory manner do not constitute restrictions of competition."

However he added that rules which are intended to select competitors based on their abilities inevitably limit the number of participants but that this acceptable if "it derives from an inherent need in the organization of the event in question".

"Some may ask why the Commission should accept a sale of FIA's interest in Formula 1 to Mr. Ecclestone's companies. Such a question betrays a misunderstanding of the Commission's objections to the way motor sport was being regulated. It is not our role to determine who owns what part of the motor sport business, but rather to ensure that the regulatory and commercial arrangements comply with the competition rules. The combination of FIA divesting its commercial interests in Formula 1 and strengthening its rules to ensure that all potential motor sports organizers and participants are treated equally seems sufficient in principle to meet the competition objections raised.

"After the Commission's intervention, FIA established an objective, transparent and non-discriminatory system in order to control and approve motor sport participants and events," he added.

Monti said that sports need to accept modern rules of governance and modify old customs.

"I welcome the willingness of sporting organizations to accept to modify their rules to meet the concerns of the European Commission and to avoid complaints. In this respect I have to mention the good example given recently by FIA. I hope that I can soon mention the FIFA (the international football federation) and UEFA (the union of European football associations) as another good example."

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