In the wake of the Royal Bank of Scotland's unprecedented £28 billion loss, the most significant in British history, pressure has been mounting on its sporting ambassadors to step down – including Sir Jackie Stewart.
The triple Formula 1 World Champion has a long-term sporting consultancy deal with the bank, in much the same way as RBS has promotional contracts in place with fellow sports stars Andy Murray (tennis), Jack Nicklaus (golf) and the Queen's grand-daughter Zara Phillips (equestrian).
The 69-year-old was instrumental in helping to broker the sponsorship agreement between the bank and Williams, and is understood to have benefited to the tune of more than €4 million from his RBS ties.
However, following the massive collapse in the bank's share price as a result of the global credit crunch – and its consequent £20 billion government bail-out – it has been suggested that the taxpayers who are now effectively funding RBS to the tune of 68 per cent may appreciate it if some of the company's sporting ambassadors were to voluntarily 'cancel their contracts'.
“I think they need to consider that this is borrowers' money we are talking about,” The Scotsman
quotes John Mann MP, a member of the Government's Treasury Select Committee, as having stressed. “I think it would go down very well with the British public if some of them were to cancel their contracts. Some of them would become real heroes if they did.”
Mann added that reports claiming RBS paid its sporting ambassadors to entertain clients as part of a £200 million sponsorship package were 'a good illustration of [the bank's] excessive behaviour in anything to do with money'.
RBS is understood to have in the pipeline a substantial cost-cutting drive that will see between 10,000 and 20,000 jobs slashed, but Stewart is adamant that he is 'very much' still with the bank, insisting: “My contract has nearly two years to run, and they always honour contracts.”
Disgraced former RBS chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin his the F1 headlines back at the beginning of this month when it was revealed that he is potentially in-line to replace Max Mosley as FIA President, a move that – should it go ahead – has been branded 'the reward of failure' [see separate story – click here
The bank also generated a good deal of controversy when it came to light that it was planning to pay bonuses totalling £1 billion to its leading figures.
“We are doing our best to strike the right balance between the benefits sponsorships bring...while managing costs down within contractual constraints,” an RBS spokesperson told The Guardian