Mixed reaction to proposed drinks sponsorship ban

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Doctors have welcomed Government plans to address alcohol misuse, but sports chiefs have warned removing sponsorship by drinks groups could leave huge funding shortages.

From the Irish Examiner

Ministers are finalising proposals to limit alcohol sponsorship of games, as well as plans to eliminate cheap alcohol sales by introducing minimum pricing.

The plans, drawn up by junior health minister Alex White, have been circulated to ministers and are expected to come back to the department next week before going before Cabinet by the end of the month.

Weekend reports suggested that alcohol sponsorship of major sporting events would be banned under the plans, but continue to be allowed for arts and cultural events.

Doctors with the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland welcomed indications that moves would be made to tackle alcohol misuse.

Frank Murray, chairman of the college’s policy group on alcohol, said: “We support moves to introduce minimum pricing to prevent the sale of very cheap alcohol. Young people and people with alcohol problems buy very cheap alcohol in supermarkets and convenience stores. This measure would make alcohol less accessible to these groups.”

The college also called for sport to be “reclaimed” back from the alcohol industry.

“Although drinks companies who sponsor sporting events deny that alcohol sponsorship serves to increase alcohol consumption, the evidence is that it does,” the college said.

Philip Browne, chief executive of the Irish Rugby Football Union, said he feared the ban on alcohol sponsorship, which could take effect from 2020.

Mr Browne told RTÉ: “If that happens ”” taking out an entire category of sponsorship ”” it simply can’t be replaced. There is no white knight to come over the hill to fill the hole in that financial category.”

Mr Browne said it was estimated that alcohol sponsorship for rugby alone in Ireland amounted to €9m annually.

Independent TD Róisín Shortall, who resigned as junior health minister and left the Labour party while overseeing the strategy, said a serious message needed to go out to drinks companies if the culture of alcohol misuse was to be tackled in Ireland.

“They get a very substantial return for their investment in various activities through the access that they get to young people and through the association between positive activities and alcohol,” she said. “That’s what they want to maintain because that promotes the whole idea of drinking and drinking to excess among young people.”