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FIA confirms 100-year F1 commercial agreement

Motorsport's governing body, the FIA, has confirmed its 100-year deal for the commercial rights of Formula 1 with Grand Prix ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone and his family trust company, SLEC

At an extraordinary meeting at Paris today (Tuesday), agreement was reached between the FIA and SLEC, represented by Kirch boss Thomas Haffa and Dieter Hahn of EMTV, and with the Formula One Association and Formula One Management, both represented by Ecclestone.

German media companies Kirch and EMTV jointly own 75 percent of SLEC, while Ecclestone holds the remaining 25 percent. The new deal begins when the current contract, also with SLEC, expires at the end of 2010.

The deal was always likely to be rubber-stamped as the FIA must comply with the European Commission's requirement to separate its commercial and promotional activities from the sport. The deal is for such a long period to avoid the likelihood of repetitive wrangles over competition issues in the future.

SLEC now holds the commercial and broadcast rights to F1 until the next century, and both it and the Kirch Group have confirmed the championship will continue to be shown on free-to-air television, rather than exclusively on its digital pay-per-view channels.

The five European-based F1 manufacturers - Ford (Jaguar), Fiat (Ferrari), Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Renault - are unhappy that the German media companies have been allowed to gain control of the commercial aspect of the sport, and have threatened to set-up a rival series when the Concorde Agreement ends in 2008.

The breakaway championship is thought unlikely to happen, however, due to a deal with the Germans - brokered by Ecclestone - which is likely to appease the so-called 'Big Five'. Kirch indicated over the weekend that a sale of a percentage of its share to the manufacturers, thought to be as much as 45 percent, is imminent.

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