Friday 17 November 2017

Sports chiefs warn alcohol ban would jeopardise World Cup bid

Treacy Hogan

IRELAND'S bid to host the Euro 2020 football finals and Rugby World Cup 2023 could be 'red carded' if the Government bans alcohol sponsorship in sport.

IRFU and FAI chiefs have warned the Government that any such move would seriously jeopardise their efforts to bring the prestigious tournaments to this country.

Together with the head of the GAA, the organisations told an Oireachtas committee yesterday that banning alcohol sponsorship would endanger their educational alcohol misuse projects throughout the country.

Evidence

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 ban on alcohol sponsorship was effective in reducing alcohol misuse.

In France, where underage misuse of alcohol is reportedly increasing, the Heineken Cup in rugby is referred to as the 'H Cup' because of regulations governing the broadcasting of alcohol sponsorship.

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

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

If a ban were introduced, Mr Browne said there would be no sudden appearance of a "white knight" to replace the drinks companies who were trying to capture market share in a diminishing market.

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 to host some matches in the Euro 2020 championships, which will be held across Europe in 13 cities.

He was confident the event could be brought to Ireland and would be enormously beneficial for the country.

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 support provided by the sponsorship – which was a "significant" part of the €6m that came from all sponsors – allowed them to develop social-inclusion programmes with major benefits.

GAA director general Paraic Duffy said that while there was an issue around young people and alcohol misuse, there was "no hard evidence" 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, the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Programme, to tackle the problem.

Pressure

A total of 1,400 dedicated officers across the clubs had been appointed to the initiative. Banning alcohol sponsorship would just increase the financial pressure on local clubs, he said.

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

Mr 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 difficult.

Irish Independent

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