Call for Federation of Irish Sport and Sport Ireland to take this ‘once in a generation opportunity’ that can reinforce the benefits of sport and physical activity in our lives, our economy and society as a whole.
Alcohol Action Ireland today (Wed 27th May) called on the government, the parties negotiating a new government and the national sporting bodies not to advance a ‘Irish Sport Resilience Fund’ without a firm commitment to the renewal of a phased programme of ending alcohol sponsorship in sport.
In recent weeks as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there has been much speculation as to the future of professional sport. Last week, the Federation of Irish Sport (21 May) called for the establishment of a Covid-19 Irish Sport Resilience Fund while the Irish Rugby Football Union has made it clear that its perilous financial situation could only be resolved by a significant intervention of government support. The current government has already committed significant resources to rescuing the Football Association of Ireland
The professional rewards to both national bodies and others, like the GAA, have been significantly enriched by their long-term relationship with alcohol sponsorship.
Alcohol sponsorship of sport is a principal marketing tactic of the alcohol industry to enrol new recruits. No young person attracted to a sporting code will benefit from the relationship between alcohol and sport.
Research published in Scotland earlier this year demonstrated that alcohol marketing references featured once every 15 seconds in a live televised Six Nations rugby match and once every 98 seconds in a live Scottish Premier League match.
International evidence since the late 1990s has highlighted the proven relationship between alcohol sponsorship and its wraparound activities, and the early initiation to drink alcohol amongst children and greater consumption in young adults and heavy drinkers.
Sport is a crucial component to ensuring our children have active and healthy lives and our sporting bodies, and the countless volunteers involved, are to be commended for the positive contribution in so many young people’s development. However, the link between professional sport and alcohol is now so pervasive that this role is being undermined by a fabricated ‘togetherness’ that is both damaging and harmful.
In Ireland today over 50% of 15 years old have drank alcohol and by the time they end their 19th year, 93% are drinking and 21% – one in five – are doing so 2/3 times a week.
Commenting on the proposal, Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications, Alcohol Action Ireland, said:
‘By linking any future funding to a phased ending to alcohol sponsorship of sport, the sporting bodies and a new government would be making a very significant step to ending this noxious relationship and protect the health and wellbeing of the future generations.
Fostering a lifelong love of sport that is tied to harmful drinking is no legacy; we can take this opportunity to break that link.’
i. Officials from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport will this afternoon (Wed, 27th) convene the second meeting with Return to Sport Expert Group. This group provides guidance to Ireland’s sporting bodies to prepare for the phased return to sporting activity in line with the Government Roadmap for Reopening Business and Society.
ii. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport chairs the Expert Group, which includes medical experts from the Sport Ireland Institute and the sports sector, as well as officials from both the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and Sport Ireland.
iii. In drafting the measures of the original Public Health Alcohol Bill in 2012/3, government had proposed to introduce a phased ban of alcohol sponsorship in sport from 2020. The proposal had been a key recommendation in the report of the Steering Group’s on the National Substance Misuse Strategy, 2012. The principal opposition at that time, led by the major national sporting bodies and supported by the alcohol industry, centred on the potential impact on Ireland’s bid to secure the Rugby World Cup 2023 – a bid that was ultimately lost to France, who have a ban on alcohol sponsorship in sport since the 1990s.
iv. Alcohol Action Ireland is a member of the global ‘End Alcohol Advertising in Sport’ campaign calling for alcohol to be phased out of professional sports: http://www.endalcoholadvertisinginsport.org