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The end of the affair

NEWS STORY
13/07/2008

The statements on Friday from Ferrari and McLaren saying that they have finally ended their dispute over 'spygate' finally brought the long-running matter to a formal conclusion. This settlement came about just five days after an article in the Independent revealed that last year's decision to fine McLaren over the affair may have been void. Given that the saga had drifted out of the limelight this would seem to be more than a coincidence.

The settlement is perhaps not surprising since the thought of the decision being challenged and dragged out further would appeal to no one, least of all the FIA, which has also made moves to put a lid on the affair.

Last Sunday's article by Pitpass' business reporter Chris Sylt and motorsport lawyer Jonathan Lux revealed that the decision may be void due to the FIA's court, the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC), not adhering to a clause in its own rules, the statutes. Now it transpires that the FIA's website has adjusted the clause to fit the way the WMSC has been operating.

The bone of contention is Article 14 of the statutes which states that "The World Motor Sport Council shall consist of: the President of the FIA; the Deputy President; the 7 Vice-Presidents; the 17 Members; a total of 26 Members who, with the exception of the President of the FIA, must represent an ASN having at least one event entered on the International Sporting Calendar of the current year." However, both F1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone and former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt, sit on the WMSC but do not represent an ASN. As a result of this the article declared that the WMSC decisions may be void.

You would have thought that the FIA's website description of the WMSC would mirror the statutes but in fact that's not the case as it says:

"The WMSC is made up of the FIA President, the Deputy President for Sport, the seven Vice-Presidents and 17 Members who, with the exception of the FIA President, must represent a National Sporting Authority with at least one event entered on the International Sporting Calendar."

Limiting the need to represent an ASN to the 17 members and not also the 3 members by right, which include Ecclestone, is enough to solve the problem in wording. It doesn't change the fact that the statutes are not worded in this way and it is the statutes that govern the FIA, not the website. But this small change to the site is in an obvious enough place to deflect any further accusations of the decisions being void.

It is unknown when the change to the website was made by the FIA. Internet archives show that it wasn't present on the most recently stored page from the end of last year. The website was re-designed in the last few months and the new text appears on it.

However, contrary to reports in the international press, on 25 April, before the site was re-designed, Sylt emailed the FIA about the problem with the statutes. Lux then emailed the FIA about the same matter in May. Neither of them received a reply from the FIA and its spokesman claims the correspondence was never received. Nevertheless, at least the story did not fall on deaf ears.

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