SABMiller is to sponsor 800 employees from small and medium alcoholic drinks retailers across the UK to help them gain qualifications in responsible drinks sales.

SABMiller will run its "Scholars Programme" in coordination with BIIAB, the awarding body of BII, which is the professional body for the licensed retail industry.

The UK-listed brewer said it plans to sponsor 500 employees from small and medium-sized retailers, as well as pubs, in England and Wales in their attempt to gain BIIAB Level 2 Award in Responsible Alcohol Retailing.

The brewer will sponsor a further 300 employees to gain similar qualifications in Scotland.

"This is a unique opportunity for licensees to get their staff trained and qualified in order to give them an understanding of licensing law," said SABMiller today (27 July).

"It will help to lessen the risk of underage sales in licensed premises and, in doing so, help protect the licences and livelihoods of licensees," said the group, which owns Peroni, Tyskie and Pilsner Urquell, as well as Grolsch and Miller Genuine Draft. 

Kristin Wolfe, head of alcohol policy at SABMiller, said: "While most large companies offer staff training for those selling alcohol, many smaller shops and pubs simply can't afford this sort of scheme."

Commander Simon O'Brien, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, welcomed the move.

"We would like such thinking to expand so the industry is fully seen as driving attitudes, behaviour and responsible trading towards a real culture change that challenges binge drinking and irresponsible trading by a small minority," he said. 

Those interested in sponsorship details should contact BIIAB on 01276 684449.