Rowing: Beefeater pull out of Boat Race

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The Boat Race yesterday suffered a hangover when Beefeater Gin withdrew as sponsor after one of the most successful and enduring relationships between a poor event and a rich client in modern sport. Beefeater have put pounds 1.4m into the Oxford and Cambridge clubs in the last three-year contract, which will expire after the 1998 race.

Duncan Clegg, the London representative of the clubs, said: "We are disappointed to lose them because it worked so well. Beefeater enhanced the race by generating a much wider appeal, especially abroad, and recreating some of the festival atmosphere of its first 100 years."

He is now looking for a successor, alongside others who expect to lose tobacco sponsorship under legislation proposed by the new Government. The deal with a new sponsor is expected to rank alongside the London Marathon, into which Flora puts pounds 2.3m per year.

Tim Foster, the Oxford president, said: "Beefeater will take a lot of replacing. It will be a big space to fill. Everyone is still talking about what a good race it was this year and it should attract somebody new. Rowing seems to have a higher profile now, especially with gold medals in every Olympics since 1984, many of them won by Boat Race oarsmen."

The Boat Race remains independent of the pounds 1.8m of Lottery funding which will come to rowing as part of the performance and excellence strategy toward the Sydney Olympics, but the team will certainly include several who have raced in light or dark blue.