WADA seeks TV rights tax to help pay for anti-doping fight

(Reuters) - A tax on television rights holders and contributions from sponsors could provide new revenue streams for the cash-strapped World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as it looks to fund the fight against performance-enhancing drugs in sport.

A woman walks into the head office for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Montreal, November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

With doping scandals dominating sporting headlines ahead of the Rio Olympics, WADA president Craig Reedie appealed to those who make money from sport to “dig deeper” and do their part to clean it up.

Speaking in an op-ed article posted on the WADA website on Monday, Reedie floated the idea of 0.5 percent tax on worldwide sporting media rights he estimated at $35 billion that would contribute $175 million a year to the organization’s war chest.

“These broadcasters, who serve billions of sports fans worldwide, must have an interest in clean sport just as the athletes and fans do,” wrote Reedie.

“After all, as sport’s integrity is increasingly under threat, it is the fans – the very people that turn on the television to watch sport – which will tune out, and directly affect the broadcasters.

“Why not, as some have argued for before, suggest some form of tariff on the media rights holders that pay for the sports rights?”

WADA currently operates on an annual budget of $30 million with 50 percent coming from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the rest from governments.

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With WADA about to consider an IOC proposal later this week at it Foundation board meeting to take over independent testing and expanding its international investigative capabilities, how to fund such an ambitious plan will be key to the debate.

Reedie announced in November he would go to governments seeking additional money to fund probes and then ask the IOC to match those donations.

Even that additional funding, however, would not be enough to fund everything WADA is being asked to take on.

Reedie also suggested it was time for sponsors to step up, noting that the global sport sponsorship business is thought to be worth approaching $50 billion.

“Sponsors are the sport industry’s fastest growing source of money, investing a significant amount of money not only in sports events but in elite athletes so that they can bask in the glory that comes from a sport star’s success,” Reedie said.

“For sponsors, all the benefits such association with a sport or a star athlete can have may be easily tarnished through their athlete’s doping scandal,” he added.

“Doping is a threat to the sponsor’s business, so why would sponsors not want to fund clean sport and have a stake in the positive values clean sport exudes?”

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond