Wednesday 13 December 2017

Ban on drink sponsors would damage sport, warns FAI

Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

IRELAND'S sporting performance would suffer if drinks sponsorship was banned, the FAI has claimed.

The warning is made in a submission to a group set up by the Department of Health to examine the continued sponsorship of sport by drinks companies amid fears it is helping fuel alcohol abuse.

Although the working group was charged with finding out how much the industry pumps into sport -- and how long the contracts are for -- it was unable to uncover a figure, saying it could only determine that the funding was "very significant".


The FAI's submission to the group said it would put the association in a "disadvantaged position" against countries where there was no ban. The association said "perhaps more damaging" would be a decision by international event organisers to avoid staging tournaments and other events here due to a lack of sponsorship.

The IRFU claimed it would not exist without the sponsorship, the final report of the group revealed. And rugby's governing body also claimed a ban could affect employment in the sports sector, while making Ireland unable to hold some events without negative economic effects.

The GAA told the group that the extent of alcohol-industry sponsorship for Gaelic games at national level "is not seen as a hugely significant issue".

The GAA recently piloted a move from title sponsorship to multi-sponsorship for its hurling championship, which was previously supported by Guinness, and it has also set up an abuse prevention programme with the HSE.

The Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport also opposes a ban, saying constraints on sporting organisations "in the current climate" would have serious implications.

Also opposing a ban is the Irish Sports Council, which said it would have a detrimental impact on sport "without a proven benefit for population health".

Phasing it out would have a knock-on impact on participation in sport -- and if drinks sponsorship was banned, the move should only be part of a wider package to tackle alcohol abuse, the council said.

However, according to a submission from the HSE, drinks sponsorship should be banned.

A ban was also called for by the Royal College of Physicians; and the National Youth Council of Ireland, which also supports a ban, said alcohol abuse among under-18s in Ireland is among the highest in Europe.

The working group -- which included representatives from sporting organisations, medical experts, and members of the drinks industry -- was chaired by the Department of Health's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan.

It did not reach a conclusion on how the Government should proceed and said any proposals to emerge from further discussions would have to take into account the contribution such sponsorships have made to sport in Ireland.

The report says: "The balance to be achieved is to ensure that the consequences of any actions taken do not have a disproportionate impact on the economy, health and social fabric of Irish society."

Irish Independent

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