Sponsor urges HK rethink on tobacco advertising curbs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 March, 1998, 12:00am

The British-American Tobacco (BAT) company has urged Hong Kong authorities to re-consider anti-tobacco advertisement legislation and leave the choice of the source of sponsorship to sporting-events organisers.

BAT had earlier stopped sponsorship of next month's Kent Beach Volleyball Grand Prix, and the future of the Viceroy Cup, entering its 29th anniversary, is in the balance. Brenda Chow, BAT public relations director, said the Legislative Council members, who will be elected on May 24, should re-consider the law.

'We'd like to have the commercial freedom to sponsor activities, especially world-class sporting events for the enjoyment of the general public,' said Chow.

'We hope the new Legco members and the Hong Kong Government will understand why tobacco companies invest money in sports and will leave the choice of the source of sponsorship to organisers and promoters and not for the Government to regulate.

'It is politically correct. . . to criticise the tobacco industry. We understand the Hong Kong Government is facing a lot of pressure from the international anti-tobacco groups in making major decisions on tobacco advertisement and sponsorships.

'I hope they can come up with a right decision. They should talk to the concerned individuals and parties to make sure they come up with a reasonable decision for Hong Kong.' Chow said BAT had not yet discussed next season's Viceroy Cup with the Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA).

'Twenty-nine years is not a short period of time. We have been self-disciplined in that we emphasise the sport and not the cigarettes during the Viceroy Cup,' she said. 'We certainly want to continue with the Viceroy Cup, but we have been forced to re-consider our commitment.' HKFA chairman Victor Hui Chun-fui said he was optimistic the Viceroy Cup would continue next season but that his organisation had been looking for new sponsors to replace BAT.

This season's Viceroy Cup kicks off on April 7 with last season's finalists Sing Tao and Happy Valley the top seeds. Instant-Dict and South China, last season's league champions and runners-up, are the other seeds.

Defending champions Sing Tao have what appears to be the easiest preliminary round match as they face league bottom side Five-One-Seven, although it may not be a pushover as the minnows eliminated Instant-Dict in the Senior Challenge Shield earlier this season.

This season's prize money pool has been increased to $748,000 - including $288,000 for the winners of the final on April 26.

Viceroy Cup Draw Preliminary Round (to be played on April 7, 10, 12 and 13 at Mongkok Stadium): Sing Tao v Five-One-Seven; Golden v South China; Instant-Dict v Yee Hope; Rangers v Happy Valley. Semi-finals to be played on April 18 and 21, also at Mongkok. Grand final on April 26 at the Hong Kong Stadium.