Motorsport's governing body has announced that it has decided to scrap its self-imposed ban on tobacco sponsorship, following a drawn-out wrangle with the European Union, but still advises competing teams to look elsewhere for backing in the future.

According to a brief statement included in the latest World Motor Sport Council bulletin, the FIA has exchanged the ban - voted into place in October 2000 and due for implementation in 2006 - for a recommendation that promoters and competitors bring all tobacco advertising to a close before the beginning of October three years from now.

The original FIA ban was drawn up in line with that planned by the EU but, following the latter's recent decision to bring forward the implementation date of its restrictions, the sport's governing body has decided to abandon a legal challenge to the ruling in favour of issuing a recommendation to its participants.

The full statement issued by the FIA reads as follows:

"On legal advice, the FIA has withdrawn the ban on tobacco sponsorship in motorsport voted in in October 2000 (for implementation in 2006) and substituted the following as a recommendation:

"Motorsport promoters and competitors (including circuit owners, event organisers, teams, and drivers) should cease all forms of tobacco sponsorship from 1 October 2006."

The FIA is particularly keen to allow teams with sponsorship arrangements with tobacco firms that were drawn up in adherence to its rules to see out their contracts before looking elsewhere for backing. President Max Mosley has already intimated that this, in conjunction with the new EU date, may mean that Europe loses some of its established events, with non-EU countries such as Turkey, China and Bahrain already poised to act as replacements. India, the Middle East and a second race in the USA are all being touted as further alternative venues.

Ironically, the global presence of motorsport, particularly Formula One, would result in viewers being able to see tobacco advertising almost every fortnight as television pictures are beamed back to Europe from events further afield.

 

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