Bacardi legal challenge attempts to end controversial French ad law

The Loi Evin, the French law which prevents alcohol and tobacco advertising at some sporting events, is to be challenged in the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The case, which has arisen out of a UK court battle between Newcastle United Football Club (NUFC) and Bacardi-Martini and a French wine company, could finally spell the end for the controversial 1993 legislation.

Bacardi-Martini and Cellier des Dauphins issued a writ against NUFC and media company Dorna Marketing in 1998 after the Premiership club failed to honour a contract to run perimeter ads during a match at St James’s Park against French Club Metz in December 1996. Bacardi-Martini had hoped to advertise its Pastis Duval brand.

The subsequent high court case centred on the legality of the Loi Evan, which prevents French alcohol or tobacco brands being advertised at events broadcast in France, on public health grounds.

Because of the sensitivity of a UK court ruling on a French law, the drinks companies have applied for an order from the UK courts to challenge the Loi Evin at the ECJ.

EU single markets minister Frits Bolkestein is in discussions with the French government over simplifying the French legislation.

But the two drinks companies will be pressing for the legislation to be scrapped altogether.

Jon Taylor, of Townleys Solicitors, which is acting for the two companies, says: “What we care about is unrestricted access to the market. That is the principle.

“This law is incompatible with the EC Treaty and as a result it should go.”

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