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Plan to ban alcohol sponsorship will hit rugby hard – IRFU chief

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Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson celebrates with the Heineken Cup. Photo: Sportsfile

Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson celebrates with the Heineken Cup. Photo: Sportsfile

Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson celebrates with the Heineken Cup. Photo: Sportsfile

THE country's most senior rugby chief is against any blanket ban on alcohol companies sponsoring sporting events.

The Department of Health intends to proceed with a plan to prevent drinks firms promoting major sporting occasions.

However, chief executive of the IRFU, Philip Browne, said he is worried about the impact the proposed legislation will have.

Labour's Junior Health Minister Alex White has circulated new proposals on legislation which would outlaw the practice by 2020.

Fears have been expressed that a ban would threaten rugby tournaments such as the Heineken Cup.

Mr Browne said alcohol sponsorship generates €9m for rugby annually.

"The proposals being put forward seem to be suggesting that there can be no alcohol sponsorship in the future.

 

Demonise

"If that happens, by taking out an entire category of sponsorship, it simply can't be replaced. There is no white knight to come over the hill to fill the hole in that financial category," he said.

"Rather than demonise sport, I find it disappointing that the Department of Health hasn't actually tried to engage with sport."

He said there has got to be a sensible and rationale approach to this.

"I don't think the populist approach of simply banning alcohol sponsorship is going to have the impact people think."

Mr Brown told an Oireachtas committee earlier this year a ban would be a "major impediment" to Ireland's bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

"The Department of Health has failed in any meaningful way to engage with sport. Sport is the vehicle by which we can address a lot of concerns that people have. We have put forward proposals where we would work with the Department of Health in trying to deal with these issues," he said.

"The revenues generated from alcohol sponsorship filters right down to grassroots. They are used to build participation numbers (in rugby). If the minister has some bright idea to replace those revenues, we are 100pc on side with him."

hnews@herald.ie


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