Sports Development Board (SDB) chief executive Andrew Ma has described proposals to ban tobacco sponsorship in sport as 'hypocritical' despite his body's tough anti-smoking policy. Ma said that while the SDB will abide by its strict policy to refuse supporting agencies which rely on tobacco companies, his personal view was that moves to ban such sponsorship would smack of hypocrisy. He added the SDB would do everything in its power to help associations and promoters find alternative forms of backing should the Government eventually endorse proposals to prohibit tobacco sponsorship. It is estimated that around $200 million is spent annually by cigarette companies in event sponsorship and the development of sport here. 'I myself find it difficult to see how you can ban tobacco sponsorship when the product is not outrightly prohibited,' said Ma. 'If you are allowed to sell, you must be allowed to advertise. I feel it is hypocritical. 'Look at alcohol. It is allowed to be advertised and promoted. 'I feel we are looking at double standards here.' He said it would be incumbent on the SDB to provide assistance to relevant bodies should tobacco sponsorship be banned. 'We all have a responsibility if there is a significant drop in sponsorship,' said Ma. 'We will do our best to help them find other ways to secure backing.' The SDB has a sports sponsorship advisory board which assists associations and promoters in finding companies willing to put money into sport. Last month, sports promoter Brian Catton, the tournament director for the annual Marlboro Championships, faxed 33 associations and agents to gain feedback on the possibility of forming a coalition to lobby against a tobacco sponsorship ban. The main thrust of Catton's argument echoes Ma's opinion that if companies sell a product which is legal, they should then have the right to advertise the product. A motion in Legco was passed in January for a total advertising and sponsorship ban of tobacco for culture and sports events. Officials from rowing, hockey and the Amateur Sports Federation and Olympic Committee have said that their bodies are against tobacco sponsorship and will support the ban. However, tennis and soccer, the two associations which benefit most from tobacco companies, said they would welcome all forms of sponsorship. In a letter to the South China Morning Post last week, Legislative Councillor Christine Loh said, instead of siding with tobacco companies, associations should actively pursue other forms of sponsorship. 'I applaud them [rowing and hockey associations] and urge other sports groups to mount a campaign to seek alternative sponsorship from the Government instead,' said Loh. 'The last thing they should do is be hoodwinked by cheap arguments from the tobacco industry.' The Urban Council yesterday approved $23 million for subsidising the needs of local sports bodies and associations to carry out their programmes for 1997/98.