Tobacco sponsorship concern leads Government to moot new taskforce

The Government may resurrect its taskforce on tobacco sponsorship, following concerns raised by sports bodies that they will struggle to replace tobacco sponsors when the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill becomes law.

Sports minister Richard Caborn has written to sports bodies, including those representing darts and snooker, to ask if they would like the taskforce to start up again, to help them find alternative sponsors.

The taskforce was set up under sports minister Tony Banks in 1998 and members included Sir Richard Branson and Mike Reynolds, director of the Institute of Sports Sponsorship.

Banks’ successor Kate Hoey scrapped the taskforce in July 2000, after sports bodies said it was too early to start replacing existing contracts. It is not known who will sit on a new taskforce.

While darts, ice hockey and angling bodies were keen to use the taskforce, pool, snooker, rugby league and clay pigeon shooting were less interested.

Under the bill, which is passing its final stages in the House of Commons, sports will have to end tobacco sponsorship by July 2003, except for Formula 1, which has an exemption until 2006. The Embassy-sponsored Snooker World Championship may also have an exemption until 2006.

The British Darts Organisation said this month that it would struggle to find a replacement sponsor for its Embassy-sponsored world championship and was considering restructuring its sponsorship package (MW May 9).

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