THE head of Diageo has described a proposal by the Irish Government to ban drinks sponsorship of sporting events as "ridiculous".
Speaking in Dublin on his first visit to Ireland in four years, Paul Walsh said that while the effects of ending such sponsorship might not be felt immediately, they will down the line.
"I think it's ridiculous. Guinness has got a rich heritage of involvement in sports, whether it's rugby or other sports.
"And for the home of Guinness, this wonderful global, iconic brand, which is providing so much revenue to this country by their exports, for anybody to consider in some way restricting its ability to leverage its brand, strikes me as very, very short-term populist thinking," he said.
He said only a small percentage of the population abused alcohol and asked: "Why do we always have to bring it down to the lowest common denominator?"
Guinness currently sponsors the GAA's All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. Last month's final replay was estimated to be worth as much as €1.5m in brand awareness for the company.
"The first year you won't notice it, the second year you won't notice it. In 10 years you'll be saying, 'What's happening?," said Mr Walsh.
Sales of Guinness and Smithwicks in Ireland are down 5pc. However, it has seen a corresponding increase in the US and emerging markets in the three months to the end of September.
Mr Walsh claimed there had now been a "level of stabilisation" in the downturn in the ontrade sector here and he could see improvements in Irish consumer sentiment.
He said Diageo needed to increase its capacity to supply new markets around the world and yesterday he visited the €153m new brew house, which is being built at St James's Gate.