Sports officials lobby Blair

Officials from sports threatened by a proposed Europe-wide ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship lobbied Tony Blair for more time to find alternative backers at a meeting yesterday.

Representatives from cricket, fishing, darts, snooker, golf, ice hockey and pool – which unlike Formula One motor racing would not enjoy exemption from an EU directive under UK Government proposals – fear their sports will be so hard hit by any ban that some competitions will have to be axed.

Snooker for example, current ly receives 75 per cent of its sponsorship revenue from tobacco companies.

The sports want more time to find alternative sponsors than the three to four years being proposed.

The hour-long meeting with Blair, sports minister Tony Banks and public health minister Tessa Jowell took place at Downing Street. It resulted in a promise of expert help for sports in attracting sponsorship from other businesses, perhaps organised by a minister such as Banks, or even Virgin boss Richard Branson.

Jim McKenzie, chief executive of the World Professional Billiard & Snooker Association, says: “Snooker’s primary concern is that we are given sufficient time to put alternative revenue streams in place.” This has been estimated at seven, or even ten years.

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