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Last Updated: Friday, 29 July 2005, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Walker fears cost of tobacco ban
Sir Rodney Walker
Walker believes the tobacco sponsorship ban is right
Ex-UK Sport chairman Sir Rodney Walker believes the tobacco sponsorship ban, which comes into force on Sunday, will leave a big gap in British sport.

Walker, now the chairman of World Snooker, estimated tobacco companies had ploughed more than 100m into British sport.

And he told BBC Sport: "Over 30 years sports have benefited enormously from tobacco sponsorship.

"It runs into tens of millions of pounds so of course it will be missed."

Despite admitting it would leave a major financial deficit for sport, he defended the Government ban.

"No one can argue with the justification of phasing out tobacco sponsorship," he said.

"All I'm saying is we have to recognise the contribution tobacco companies have made. Without their backing, sports like rugby league and snooker wouldn't be as buoyant and prosperous as they are today.

"The loss of tobacco sponsorship will not create great casualties but every sport will struggle to recoup money lost from tobacco."

Despite insisting sports, including snooker, were struggling to "replace the income lost", he predicted a new genre of sponsorship would fill the void.

"The sector zooming up on us is online gaming companies," he said, "which could prove the future."

Interview: World Snooker Chairman Sir Rodney Walker

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