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Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 16:37 GMT

UK Politics

Save Our Sports, say Tories

Snooker could lose 70% of its sponsorship

The Tories have attacked the government for not finding sponsorship to replace that lost to sports through the ban on tobacco advertising.

The Save Our Sports campaign was launched by Shadow Spokesman for Culture, Media and Sport Peter Ainsworth, along with representatives of some of the sports affected.

The Labour government has promised to support sports, such as darts, snooker and angling, which will lose out through the tobacco sponsorship ban.

[ image: The Benson and Hedges Cricket Trophy: A victim of the ban]
The Benson and Hedges Cricket Trophy: A victim of the ban
Mr Ainsworth said: "One year ago the government promised to support sports which would lose sponsorship as a result of the tobacco advertising ban.

"To date the only government action has been a survey from the ministry asking for more information.

"This is stark contrast with Tony Blair's personal pledge to support these sports last year. All these sports have been let down by this Labour government and sporting events are now at risk."

Richard Spring, deputy Tory culture, media and sports spokesman: "Sports are in distress"
The Conservatives have calculated there are 65 sports affected by the ban

Olly Croft, general secretary of the British Darts Organisation, described how tobacco sponsorship had helped promote the sport around the world.

Darts would lose up to £400,000 a year through the ban, he said.

Mr Croft said: "This will take us back to the position we were in the '60s and '70s.

Martyn Blake, secretary of the World Professional Billiard and Snooker Association, said: "We've been actively involved in tobacco sponsorship for over 25 years.

"They are major sponsors of our world championships and other major events.

"Sponsorship has helped us grow and helped establish our tournaments as major world class events."

[ image: Darts: Relies on tobacco sponsorship]
Darts: Relies on tobacco sponsorship
Tobacco companies provides 70% of the sports' sponsorship, said Mr Blake.

Mr Ainsworth went on to attack a loophole in the ban which allowed Formula One to benefit from tobacco sponsorship for up to nine more seasons.

If followed a controversial £1m donation by the sport's boss Bernie Ecclestone to Labour prior to the 1997 general election, which was subsequently returned.

Mr Ainsworth said: "Labour's policy reeks of hypocrisy.

"The Ecclestone donation appeared to help secure a stay of execution for Formula One until 2006 while these other sports face the removal of their sponsorship before 2003.

"Labour stand accused of accepting cash for policy changes in this area."

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