Honda website
Honda website

MAY 10, 2005

Court fires back at manufacturers

David Ward, the secretary-general of the FIA International Court of Appeal, says he is not happy with the current criticism of the court he runs, which rules on all cases of appeal which occur in motor sport and between the member clubs of the FIA. Ward says he is not an employee of the FIA and if the General Assembly does not like the way he administers the court of appeal he can be voted out of the office. The same, he says, applies to the judges.

There is no doubt that one of the reasons that the independence of the court is questioned is that Ward has had close links with FIA President Max Mosley in the past and has, at various times, held important roles within the FIA.

Ward started his career in UK politics as a Labour Party activist and in 1988 became Chief Policy Advisor to John Smith MP when he was leader of the opposition. After Smith died in 1994, Ward continued in politics but then set up his own consultancy business called MacLellan Ward Associates (his wife Emma MacLellan is the director of the John Smith Memorial Trust). Through this work in Europe he encountered Mosley and in 1995 famously set up a meeting between the FIA President and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He later invited Blair to the British GP in 1996 where the F1 boss met Bernie Ecclestone. These introductions would ultimately lead to problems for Blair and Ecclestone in 1997 when there was a scandal about political donations and tobacco legislation in Britain.

Between 1996 and 2001 Ward became director-general of the FIA's "European Bureau" in Brussels and was seen as Mosley's closest advisor. In 2000 and in 2001 he was Secretary-General of the FIA's Touring and the Automobile Division, an administrative role which is similar role to Pierre de Coninck's position at FIA Sport. Ward eventually proposed that the court be made independent of the FIA management and answerable only to the General Assembly. The role was created in 2003 and he was elected secretary-general of the International Court of Appeal.

Ward had by then been named director general of the FIA Foundation for the Automobile and Society and had left the employ of the FIA itself, although he has since acted as an "FIA Consultant" over the question of karting. There is no doubting however that these various roles has created some confusion over the years.

Another of the criticisms of the court is that the judges are often the same people.

"I have two major constraints on this choice," Ward says. "Firstly I must avoid choosing judges of a nationality that is the same as any of the parties involved. Secondly, I have to rely on the availability of judges sometimes at very short notice for hearings that must be held as a matter of urgency. Taken together these constraints sometimes make it difficult to choose judges that live beyond Europe. However, I have tried to make it easier to extend the available choice of judges."

In 2003 Ward proposed increasing the membership of the court from 15 to 18 (each of which has a deputy). Thus there are now 36 potential judges on call. Since Ward has been running the court (he started organising it in 2000) there have been six ICA cases related to F1. These have featured a total of 12 different judges. Seven of the 12 have appeared more than once: Vassilis Koussis and Philippe Roberti de Winghe have each been on four of the six judging panels; Javier Conesa has done three and Harry Duijm, Jose Macedo e Cunha, Reginald Redmond and Pedro Romero have each done two.

Five judges have appeared only once. The remainder, including some Europeans, have never appeared in an F1 case.

The role of the court was raised in the discussions between the FIA and the European Union and modifications were made to the statutes regarding the court in the course of those negotiations.

The role of the court has also recently been challenged at the Tribunal de Grand Instance in Paris after a decision in 2003, Jean-Louis Schlesser alleging that the court lacked independence. In March this year the court ruled that the proceedings showed the independence of the court. That ruling was related solely to the Schlesser case but it is an indication that the civil courts do not really want to get involved.

"I think that critics of the ICA should reflect carefully on the significance of this decision," Ward says. "I take very seriously the independence, integrity and transparency of the court. I have no doubt that the judges do also. It is precisely because of this that substantive steps to enhance the transparency and the existing independence of the court have been taken. It is one thing for certain automobile manufacturers to complain about the way in which the FIA develops its sporting regulations, or to argue about the commercial agreements involving Formula 1, but it is quite another matter to imply that volunteer judges elected to serve in an appeal court established in the FIA statutes by the national sporting authorities and affiliated motoring organizations are unable to act independently."

There have in the past been civil cases in which the decisions of the ICA have been challenged successfully. Both Peugeot and Tyrrell went to the Tribunal de Grand Instance in Paris and won, although both cases were later overturned in the Cour d'Appel de Paris.