The GPWC and the Nice Declaration

The Grand Prix World Championship company is aiming to run its own Formula 1-style series in 2008 and has plans to establish a system of regulation outside the FIA umbrella. This is not an easy thing to achieve as the FIA is a well-established and powerful sporting federation with powers to stop such rebel series if necessary. Challenging the FIA's authority is also not going to be easy because the federation has established legal rights, based on previous court cases and in recent years its regulations have been investigated and cleared by the European Union.

The Europeans have been a thorn in the side of the FIA in many ways (notably on the issue of tobacco sponsorship) but the battles which have been fought have helped to develop a code of sports governance in Europe. Two years ago in the French city of Nice the European heads of government gathered for what is known as a Council of Europe. One of their aims on that occasion was to define how to apply European Union law to the governance of sport. They drafted a document that is known as The Nice Declaration which set out the general principles by which EU institutions should deal with sport. The move was welcomed by all the major sporting federations, notably the FIA, the International Olympic Committee and soccer's UEFA.

The Nice Declaration stressed EU support for the independence of sports organisations and their right to organise themselves through the appropriate structures. It recognised their role in ensuring stability in sport but also recognised that part of their responsibility was to develop and nurture the sport at grass roots level. The declaration added that "social functions entail special responsibilities for federations and provide the basis for the recognition of their competence in organising competitions".

The FIA meets all the requirements of the Nice Declaration. It has responsibilities for international motor sport that cover all the major motor sporting disciplines, both amateur and professional, throughout the world. These include karting, touring cars, sports cars, rallying and Formula 1. It also provides research and training to maintain the highest levels of safety for competitors and spectators.

For the GPWC to be able to fight the FIA it will need to gain some recognition from the authorities but as it fulfils none of the "social functions" which the EU considers to be so important for sporting federations it is running the risk of being seen as merely an attempt to separate the highly-profitable pinnacle of motor racing from the sport's traditional amateur and multi-disciplinary base. To establish a legitimate challenge to the FIA's position is going to take a great deal more than the GPWC planners have even considered.

The FIA has made it clear that the continued efforts of the GPWC to run its own series outside the FIA rules and regulations can only lead to trouble between the FIA and the automobile manufacturers, which could end up being hugely disruptive for the sport and for the car industry as a whole.

Negotiation and compromise seem to be a much wiser route for all concerned.

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