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OCTOBER 8, 2004

Ecclestone in the firing line

The Guardian newspaper in London has accused Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone of "holding the British Grand Prix to ransom" and has urged the British government not to give in to Ecclestone's demands.

"The fact that other countries are paying higher prices - often with government support - cannot justify Mr. Ecclestone's policy of treating the British race like a piece on his global Monopoly board," the newspaper wrote in one of its leading articles. "There is absolutely no case for central government to cut another sleazy deal with Mr. Ecclestone following his notorious £1m donation to Labour in 1997 - which had to be returned amid suspicion that it was a million quid pro quo in return for the exemption of F1 from the tobacco advertising ban".

Ecclestone, the paper said that the fact that Ecclestone is now able to play governments off against one another is "an example of one of the worst aspects of globalisation. It is outrageous that Mr. Ecclestone is prepared to turn his back on Silverstone for the sake of £1.5m. He may argue that this is a small sum for a government, but it is also a small sum for a man with billions in the bank. The government must not bend to Bernie".