FEBRUARY 16, 2002
The British Government recognizes motorsport's power
THE British Government has steered well clear of the motorsport industry in recent years, largely because of the unfortunate scandal involving a payment of $1.6m to the Labour Party by Bernie Ecclestone. This was the first major upset in Prime Minister Tony Blair's first term of office and motorsport has been seen as something of a taboo subject ever since.
The Labour Party has however provided FIA President Max Mosley with several of his most trusted lieutenants and their connections in Parliament have been very useful in solving some of the sport's problems, particularly at the European Union.
The appointment of Richard Burden as "MP for motorsport" is an important step forward for the sport while at the same time being a very clear slap in the face of the various British organizations which have been putting themselves forward as defenders of the industry. The problem in recent years has been that none of the interested parties have been working in a concerted effort to influence the government and have been tripping over one another as a result. This has led to much confusion in political circles as to who is representing whom and why.
One of the major problems has been that one very high-profile individual has done considerably more harm than good, irritating politicians with claims that government funding should be made available to help the work at Silverstone. This has not gone down well given that he himself has a long history of being a tax exile.
The appointment of Burden must therefore be seen as a very good sign for the industry and a signal that the British authorities do understand the importance of the motorsport industry and want to help. Appointing their own man to do the job means that it is likely that attitudes towards the sport will now soften and there is a very strong claim that the industry should be receiving some support from industrial budgets rather than from the sports-related funds.
The only slight drawback is that Burden made his name in parliamentary circles with his dealings with the water industry - and water is the last thing that they want to talk about at Silverstone.
However, a little less talking and a little more action from Silverstone will probably be a good thing in the long term...
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