German and Swiss textile machinery associations are to play a key role in the organisation of ITMA 2003 in Britain. But it could lead to a bitter legal battle after the British Textile Machinery Association (BTMA) was frozen out of running the event.

ITMA is being staged for the first time ever in Britain. It will take place from October 22 to October 29, 2003 at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. As the national association, BTMA was originally due to play a leading role in the event. BTMA was suddenly dropped, however, and CEMATEX (the Comite Europeen des Constructeurs de Machines Textiles) has now signed a new contract with the NEC for ITMA 2003.

CEMATEX will still not make any comment on why BTMA is no longer involved, but it has now issued the following statement: "For internal reasons, CEMATEX has decided to adjust the structure of the ITMA 2003 organisation as follows: a supervisory committee has been created under the leadership of Mrs Evelyne Cholet, general secretary of CEMATEX, assisted by Mr Thomas Waldmann, general secretary of VDMA, of Mr Lukas Sigrist, general secretary of Swissmem (textile division) and by a technical adviser, in order to ensure that the CEMATEX rules will be observed by the organiser, NEC."

VDMA - the German textile machinery association - was originally a rival to stage the 2003 event. It was disappointed at losing out to Britain, particularly as the British textile machinery industry is regarded as a small player compared the industry in other European countries. In the end, the German association will be closely involved in the organisation of ITMA 2003, even though the event will still be staged in Britain.

The BTMA is still awaiting a formal announcement from CEMATEX about why it has been frozen out, although the association says it is now aware that new arrangements are being made.

"We understand that a new contract has now been signed between the NEC and CEMATEX," said Steve Combes, the deputy chairman of the BTMA. "It is difficult for us to say any more at this stage because we are still waiting for CEMATEX to give some sort of formal explanation about what has been happening. We were hoping for an early statement, but that has not been forthcoming."

Although the BTMA would not comment, it is now believed that the issue of who should organise ITMA 2003 could end up in the courts. CEMATEX could face a claim that existing contracts already exist for the organisation of the event.

The dispute over ITMA 2003 seems set to become increasingly bitter.

By Clive Hinchliffe.

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