Tuesday 12 December 2017

Proposed alcohol sponsorship ban 'threatens hopes of hosting major events'

Leinster players celebrate with the Heieneken Cup
Leinster players celebrate with the Heieneken Cup

Treacy Hogan

IRELAND’S bid to host the Euro 2020 football finals and Rugby World Cup 2023 could be derailed by banning alcohol sponsorship in sport.

IRFU and FAI chiefs today warned any such move by the Government would seriously jeopardize their ongoing efforts to bring the prestigious tournaments to this country.

Together with the head of the GAA, the organizations warned an Oireachtas committee today that banning alcohol sponsorship would endanger their valuable education alcohol misuse projects throughout the country.

A report has recommended that sponsorship from the drinks industry be terminated by 2016.

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said there was no evidence to show that a sponsorship ban was effective in reducing alcohol misuse.

In France, the Heineken Cup is referred to as the "H Cup" because of regulations governing the broadcasting of alcohol sponsorship. In France, underage misuse of alcohol was on the increase.

A ban would however, curtail Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Mr Browne  told the Oireachtas Committee on Sport today.

The IRFU, which receives €9m a year in sponsorship, was ideally placed to mount a nationwide educational initiatives around alcohol.

Mr Browne said there would be no “ white knight “ to replace the drinks sponsors if a ban was introduced.

He urged the committee to recommend to Sports Minister Leo Varadkar not to “ unravel “ a system that was working effectively.

FAI chief executive John Delaney said a ban would hit their bid for Euro 2020 championships which will be held in 13 cities.

He expressed confidence that the event could be brought to Ireland, with enormous benefits.

The FAI chief said that garda figures showed that late night leagues run by soccer clubs and attended by huge numbers co-incided with a 52pc drop in anti-social behaviour in Tallaght and 49pc in Ballymun in Dublin.

The sponsorship support,  a " significant " part of the total €6m from all sponsors, allowed them to develop social inclusion programmes with major benefits.

GAA director general Paraic Duffy,  that while there was an issue around young people and alcohol, there was “ no hard evidence “ that banning alcohol sponsorship for major events would reduce misuse.

He said the GAA, in conjunction with the HSE, had rolled out an educational programme called ASAP, Alcohol and Substance Abuse Programme, to tackle the problem. A total of 1,400 dedicated officers had been appointed to the initiative across the clubs.

Banning alcohol sponsorship would just increase the financial pressure on local clubs.

The GAA chief suggested legislation be introduced restricting the availability of cheap alcohol to young people.

Minister Varadkar has already said it was not practical to enforce a ban "in the foreseeable future".

He said it would make our participation in tournaments like the Heineken Cup very difficult.

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