Ministers in favour of ban on alcohol sponsorship told to find new funding

Government Ministers remain deadlocked over banning alcohol sponsorship in sport, with those pushing for the move being told they will have to come up with alternative sources of funding.

From The Irish Times

Minister of State for Health Alex White has presented proposals to Government to ban all alcohol sponsorship in sports by 2020 but the matter has yet to go to Cabinet for formal approval.

In a series of Cabinet subcommittee meetings involving relevant Ministers, the basic principle of a ban has been accepted. However, Minister for Sport Leo Varadkar and Minister for Arts and Culture Jimmy Deenihan have not agreed to a date for implementation. Both Ministers have argued the ban cannot go ahead until matching alternative funding is in place to compensate sporting organisations for the loss of revenue.

’Broad principles’

Not all details of alcohol sponsorship has been made public by sporting organisations but it has been estimated that it is worth at least €20 million a year. At an Oireachtas hearing last March attended by the three main sporting organisations, the FAI disclosed its revenues from sponsorship was €6 million while the IRFU said it was worth €9 million. The GAA, which has been scaling back its level of alcohol sponsorship in recent years, did not disclose a figure but said sponsorship from alcohol companies comprised a small portion of its overall sponsorship revenue.

A Government source said yesterday: “The broad principles have been agreed but there is no agreement on a date. The Ministers from the two departments that will be most affected by this have said that alternative funding to make up the shortfall should be in place before any ban comes into effect.

“And the feeling in those departments is that the onus should be on those who are promoting the ban to find those alternative sources, not the departments who will be affected by it.”

Yesterday, Alcohol Action Ireland welcomed the Cabinet’s decision to agree in principle the link between alcohol and sport be broken.

“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,” said spokesman Conor Cullen.

Alcohol abuse

Earlier this month, the all-party Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications published a report which recommended more engagement and consultation with alcohol companies on alcohol abuse in Irish society. It did not support the case for a ban on alcohol sponsorship unless alternative streams of funding were put in place.

The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland said a different approach was required other than a ban, arguing the emphasis should be on “evidence-based solutions that will have a real impact on effecting societal change”.