January 5th, 2010
04:55 PM ET

Briatore court ruling sets dangerous precedent

By ruling in favor of Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds in their appeal against bans for the 2008 "Crashgate" scandal, the French courts have essentially rendered the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) impotent. The FIA is the governing body of motorsport, so how can it possibly have exceeded its authority, as the court stated, by banning the pair? If the sport's governing body doesn't have the power to include or exclude whomever it wants from its own competitions, what's the point of having a governing body? Isn't regulating the sport its sole raison d'etre?

Flavio Briatore contemplates his future.
Flavio Briatore contemplates his future.

Nowadays, almost every sporting dispute you care to mention goes to appeal. But in the past, at least the ultimate arbiter has been a sporting entity - the Court of Arbitration for Sport. In this case, however, the sporting judgment was trumped by the law, rendering the FIA and its new president Jean Todt essentially powerless.

And, while we're at it, how did this happen? FIFA, for example, will not countenance government or state intervention in the running of football, and bans associations where external tinkering is suspected. It is subject to no courts for doing this. Yet the FIA has been walked all over by the French judicial system. And, besides a half-hearted threat to launch its own appeal to delay Briatore's return to motorsport, it appears to be taking the judgment lying down.

And it's not only the FIA's right to make decisions that has been usurped, it's also the decision itself. Briatore appealed the ruling on the grounds that a) he wasn't guilty of ordering Nelson Piquet Junior to deliberately crash his car at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, and b) even if he was found guilty, the punishment didn't fit the crime as the severity of it reflected his tense relationship with then FIA president Max Mosley.

So, by ruling in Briatore's favor, the French courts have issued the FIA with a double whammy, saying its disciplinary process is flawed and its judgment is subjective rather than objective, and therefore not impartial.

If I were Todt, I'd take real exception to that, even though he didn't preside over the case, as it's damning of the very institution and office to which he was appointed. Guilty or not, and who knows the truth, Briatore and Symonds received a hearing and judgment in the court of their peers. Unfortunately, after Briatore and Symonds "lawyered up", that decision wasn't binding. And, to my mind, that sets a dangerous precedent.

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Filed under:  Motorsport
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Peter Morris

    But any enquiry or decision of the FIA (or any other sporting authority) ought to be properly conducted with fairness and impartiality, something that was clearly lacking in this case and some of the other cases over which Max Mosely provided.

    I am delighted Mosely has gone and I am sure Jean Todt will take a fairer and more reasonable approach should anything like this happen again.

    January 5, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Reply
  2. Dan Hetorilla

    It's refreshing to see the FIA put in its place by a court in the country it resides. I don't believe that this sets any sort of precedent that reduces any ability to make decisions in regards of safety to the sport. For example: If I go to court and have a speeding ticket overturned it doesn't mean I will never get ticketed for speeding again.

    January 5, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Reply
  3. KRäikkönen

    Didn't someone intentionally crash a car here?

    January 5, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Reply
  4. Ron Chisholm

    I would suggest that the main FIA teams are all the same "they cheat the system" and why! because the amount of funds associated with the sport.

    But look at where the decision was made, what country., then look at the name of the team.

    How can you have a French court make a ruling on a major French auto make, and that is what happened. The courts had a conflict of association there fore it should of ruled its self out, for the reason of being cited as a bias ruling.

    January 6, 2010 at 1:04 am | Reply
  5. Ryan

    The realization that sporting bodies don't act in the best interest of the sport they reside over is extremely disappointing!!!

    January 6, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  6. PG

    The FIA should move its headquarters to another country where there will be no interference from the courts. What if there was a fatal accident as a result of a deliberate crash? Would the French Courts still rule that the FIA cannot impose any punishments? Please, just move to a country where the courts ruled by reason instead of boorish self interest.

    January 12, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Reply

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