Departments lobbied against plans to end sport sponsorship by drink firms

  • Post category:News

Monday, October 08, 2012

Government departments repeatedly lobbied against proposals to end sport sponsorship by the drinks industry, internal memos show.

Documents obtained by the Irish Examiner under the Freedom of Information Act show various departments tried to get the plans dropped or watered down.

The National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group, set up in Dec 2009, eventually published its report in Feb 2012.

Among the more contentious recommendations in the final report was the phasing-out of alcohol sponsorship of sport and other large public events by 2016.

From the outset, the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport highlighted its opposition to the plan.

Government departments also facilitated and, in cases, strongly backed submissions they received from industries and groups affected.

In Aug 2010, assistant secretary of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport Donagh Morgan wrote to the chairman of the group, Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health, saying any such plan in the current economic climate would have “very serious implications” for sports bodies.

In Oct 2010, the secretary general of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Tom Moran, requested the group to take into account the “negative impact” a total ban on alcohol sponsorship would have on the horse industry, which he said supported 22,000 jobs and generated  €1.1bn to the economy annually.

In Jan 2011, following a meeting with the Irish Sports Council, the GAA, FAI and IRFU, the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport wrote to the Department of Health stating neither it nor the sports bodies agreed to the phrase ending sponsorship “through legislation”.

Instead, it suggested sports bodies should “work towards” that aim as economic circumstances allowed.

On three occasions during Sep 2011, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport wrote to Dr Holohan and told him it did not agree with the wording of the proposal.

It said the financial contribution of the drinks industry to sport should be recognised and that sports bodies should be merely required to “examine” the issue of sponsorship.