Formula One May Be Forced To Ditch Alcohol Sponsors (Update)

UPDATE (GMM) Struggling F1 teams could be dealt another financial blow.

There are reports that the European Union is considering banning alcohol sponsorships in sport.

Some years ago, F1 had to deal with the loss of tobacco millions, even though Ferrari continues to be quietly backed by Marlboro parent Philip Morris.

"It (sponsorship) is crucial," said team boss Marco Mattiacci in Monaco. "It is fundamental to attract sponsors in formula one."

In tobacco's wake, sponsorships by alcoholic beverage brands have become prevalent in F1.

McLaren has a 'Johnnie Walker' livery this weekend in Monaco, Force India is headed by the Indian drinks magnate Vijay Mallya, and Williams' new Martini deal was hailed as the return of an iconic sponsor to formula one.

"It's getting harder and harder to go out there and bring sponsors in," said Claire Williams. "We're continually out there trying to bring in new sponsors to keep Williams alive."

According to reports, the task may soon get even harder.

"This is a mirror image of what happened with tobacco sponsorship," an insider at the European Union told The Times newspaper.

"Governments are moving fast to bring in health legislation, and alcohol sponsorship is an obvious target. What happened with tobacco a few years ago will happen with alcohol," the source warned.

05/14/14 A leaked report last week from the U.K.'s Labour Party "revealed plans to ban alcohol sponsorship if they take office after next year's General Election," according to PIT PASS. In a pattern "strikingly familiar to the successful effort to ban tobacco sponsorship a broad coalition of European health activists and legislators are gearing up for a battle to toughen anti-alcohol legislation." According to Professor Joe Barry of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, a ban is "inevitable" and "it will be seen as crazy to have allowed alcohol sponsorship of sport, in the same way as tobacco."

In the U.K. a ban on alcohol sponsorship "is already supported by powerful voices such as the British Medical Association and the House of Commons Health Select Committee."

The MPs have called for a U.K. version of France's Loi Evin, which "bans alcohol advertising on television, in cinemas, and from sponsoring of sporting events." These developments "come at a difficult time for F1, facing budget pressures but also a growing profile in alcohol sponsorship." Earlier this month, Force India announced a new sponsorship agreement with Smirnoff, which now joins Martini and Johnny Walker "as major brands in the sport." The alcohol and advertising industry "will oppose EU proposals for a ban but there is understandable caution about alcohol sponsorship in motor sport." PIT PASS

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