Booze sports ban could be followed by special tax on alcohol

The Government is considering slapping a special tax on booze after agreeing to ban alcohol companies sponsoring major sporting events by 2020.

From the Irish Mirror

The Cabinet’s sub committee on health agreed to push forward with Alex White’s plans to stop giants funding sports events – but is torn over the best way to do it.

The coalition is examining replacing the lost money with a special levy on alcohol or by heaping cash from the exchequer into the games.

The two parties were at loggerheads on the issue with Health Ministers James Reilly and Mr White pushing for the move.

But a series of Ministers including Leo Varadkar, Jimmy Deenihan and Pat Rabbitte were blocking an all-out ban because of the lack of alternative sources of funding.

It has now emerged that a compromise was reached between both sides with the ban being delayed for another seven years and the Government filling the potential hole.

This could be done by a tax on alcopops or a levy on off-licence sales, which could curb the number of people binge-drinking at home.

The Department of Health confirmed an agreement in principle was reached but the final details will not be approved until after the summer recess.

It also revealed there would be a ban on below-cost selling of booze, which is costing the State €21 million, and restrictions on the outlets that can sell alcohol.

There will also be controls put in place for alcohol advertising namely an embargo on the times booze companies can go on air.

Conor Cullen,   a spokesman for Alcohol Action Ireland welcomed the news and said our relationship with alcohol is harmful and needs to be addressed.

He said: “The main concern 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 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 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 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.”

Meanwhile, the National Off-Licence Association yesterday called on the government to help save the remaining 5,300 jobs in their sector.

In its pre-budget submission, the body, which represents 315 independent specialist off-licences, said it has seen over 3000 jobs lost since 2008 in the independent off-licence sector.

Chairwoman Evelyn Jones said: “If government doesn’t act now, the remaining 5,300 jobs in our sector will be lost forever.

“Our members are based across the length and breadth of Ireland and provide much needed jobs to every area of the country.

“If these jobs disappear, they won’t be replaced. If action isn’t taken, continued job losses will cause immense damage at a time when employment is scarce.”