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Loss of Cyprus Rally this year ‘unreasonable and criminal’

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The Cyprus Automobile Association on Thursday branded the finance ministry’s refusal to underwrite the holding of the Cyprus Rally over the next four years at WRC/ERC levels as “unreasonable and criminal”.

But CAA president Antonis Michaelides said the offer from the FIA – the governing body of motor sport — still stood for 2023-2025 and expressed the hope that the government to emerge from the February 2023 elections will reconsider.

And he revealed that as a result of the ministry’s refusal to approve a grant, the 2022 rally that would normally be held in September has been called off for the first time since 1974-1975 when it was scrapped following the invasion.

Michaelides cited a Deloitte report that the direct and indirect benefits for the Cyprus economy from organising the Cyprus Rally at WRC/ERC level for the four years of 2022-2025 were estimated at €120.4 million, while the total cost was only €10.6m.

But he said the loss was not just financial, as Cyprus was missing an opportunity to promote itself as a country that can organise important sporting events, becoming one of 14 worldwide that participate in the World Rally Championship.

According to the Deloitte study, the event was expected to attract a TV audience of 102.3 million over the four-year period, generating a direct benefit to the economy of €30.5m, and another €89.9m in indirect revenue, he said.

Despite the finance ministry’s refusal to guarantee the four-year contract, FIA’s proposal through WRC Promoter GmbH remains on the table for 2023-2025.

Under the proposal, the Cyprus Rally 2023 would be held as part of the MERC (Middle East Rally Championship) or ERC (European Rally Championship) and those of 2024 and 2025 at WRC (World Rally Championship) level.

The initial proposal followed contacts held by Cyprus Rally’s clerk of course Nayia Kontopoulou in Athens with WRC Promoter GmbH on the sidelines of last year’s Acropolis Rally which returned to the WRC after nine years.

The CAA negotiated with WRC Promoter GmbH and managed a significant reduction in the cost of deal, which in line with FIA policy needed to be underwritten by the state, he said, noting that the Mitsotakis government had signed such an agreement.

Two meetings were then held at the finance ministry. The second, last April, was attended by the finance minister. There Deloitte officials presented their report, with the president of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry backing the CAA’s request.

Meetings were also held with House finance committee president and the vice president of Disy who both also backed the idea. Michaelides said he also had an informal chat with Disy’s president who told him that “the minister is unpersuadable.”

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