Alcohol link to sports should stay, say TDs

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The proposed ban on the sponsorship of sporting events by the drinks industry has been rejected by an all-party Oireachtas committee.

From The Irish Times

The group accepted evidence from sporting bodies that they would not be able to find alternative funding. The draft report by the committee on transport and sport has concluded that the main sporting organisations in Ireland would suffer greatly if legislation prohibiting sponsorship was introduced.

Outgoing committee chairman Tom Hayes, now Minister of State for Agriculture, said in a foreword to the report that members were cognisant of the strongly opposing views held by sports organisations and medical professionals.

“Nonetheless in recognising the realities of the State’s current difficult economic situation, where additional funding for sports from Government sources could simply not be considered, the committee agreed that a ban on alcohol drinks sponsorship could not be countenanced,” he wrote.

Ban decision

The Government will soon make a decision on whether to implement such a ban, recommended by the steering group report on a national substance misuse strategy.

The Oireachtas committee heard representations from the various sporting bodies, the medical profession and the drinks industry earlier this year in response to the steering group recommendations.

The committee has concluded in a draft report that the sporting organisations were all cognisant of the dangers from the misuse of alcohol and were supportive of measures to counter these problems.

“However, every sports organisation which presented to the committee emphasised the importance of alcohol drinks industry sponsorship to participation rates and promotion of their sports.

“Similarly, all organisations were firmly of the view that if such sponsorship was discontinued there were no replacement sponsors to be found.”

The general consensus was that while prohibiting the sponsorship of sports by drinks firms was a worthwhile aspiration, the reality was that the main sporting organisations would suffer if such legislation was introduced.

“While some committee members were firmly of the view that sponsorship by alcohol drinks companies should be phased out by 2016, as proposed in the steering group report, the majority held the view that the link between sponsorship and the misuse of alcohol had not been established and accordingly the committee feels that banning sponsorship of sports by the alcohol industry is not merited,” it concluded.

Meanwhile, drinks company Diageo, which owns Guinness, reiterated its commitment to Ireland but expressed opposition to some measures being considered by the Government. In a statement it noted an investment programme of nearly €160 million in a new brewing centre and said it wanted to be able to continue with further investments in the future.

However, it required “a sustainable environment in which to promote our Irish-manufactured products responsibly”. It expressed a desire to work with Government to find effective solutions to reduce alcohol misuse.