Alcohol Action Ireland urges Government to make reaching agreement on a ban of alcohol sponsorship of sports a priority

A social responsibility levy would make a significant contribution to the promotion of healthy activities in Ireland

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol related issues, has welcomed media reports today (Sunday) that there is an agreement in principle at Cabinet level that we need to break the close links between the alcohol industry and our sporting organisations by introducing a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sports.

“It’s very encouraging to hear that there is agreement within Government with the Department of Health’s view that pairing a healthy activity, such as sport, with an unhealthy product, such as alcohol is causing problems for our children and young people, influencing their beliefs and behaviour in relation to alcohol and increasing the likelihood that they will start to drink and drink more if already using alcohol,” said Conor Cullen, Communications Officer with Alcohol Action Ireland.

“The main issue regarding the proposed ban on alcohol sponsorship of sports now seems to be largely based on concern for the future funding of the sporting organisations currently in receipt of this sponsorship and we would urge the Government to make resolving this issue a priority, as breaking the link between the alcohol industry and our sporting organisations is undoubtedly a crucial part of our response if we are to finally make a real and lasting difference to our harmful relationship with alcohol.

“The full-range of alcohol-harm reduction measures currently being considered by Government, including the alcohol sponsorship ban and other key measures targeting the pricing, marketing and availabaility of alcohol, have the potential to significantly reduce the substantial costs incurred by the State due to alcohol-related harm each year – over €3 billion – and also the large number of lives lost due to alcohol in Ireland. Therefore implementing these measures is not just the right thing to do, but also makes financial sense,” said Mr Cullen.

“The proposal to ban alcohol sponsorship of sports does not seek an immediate ban, but that the sponsorship deals are phased out by 2020, which we feel is proportionate and leaves d a lot of time to secure alternative sponsorship from other sectors. However, the Government may still choose to address any potential shortfall in sponsorship funding for these organisations and could do so through the hugely profitable alcohol industry without continuing to allow it the platform of sports to market its harmful and unhealthy products to the people of Ireland, particularly the young people who are most at risk from them,” said Mr Cullen.

“As well as the phasing out of alcohol sponsorship of sports, the Steering Group Report on the National Substance Misuse Strategy recommends the introduction of a “social responsibility levy” through which the alcohol industry would ’contribute to the cost of social marketing and awareness campaigns in relation to social and health harms caused by alcohol’. It states that the levy ’could also be used to contribute to the funding of sporting and other large public events that help provide alternatives to a drinking culture for young people’.

“Based on the latest alcohol consumption figures for Ireland, 11.68 litres per capita, a levy of just one cent per Irish standard drink (10 grammes of alcohol) would currently generate over €33 million, which is equivalent to the alcohol industry’s estimated total spend on sports sponsorship in Ireland, some €30 to €35 million. Therefore, even at just one cent per standard drink, a levy would be able to replace alcohol sponsorship funding lost by the proposed ban on such sponsorship deals, even before replacement sponsors from other sectors are taken into account, with the sporting organisations having seven years to seek out and agree those new deals.”