Partnerships with alcohol companies are nothing for our sporting organisations to be proud of

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Alcohol Action Ireland is calling on the country’s sporting organisations currently in receipt of alcohol sponsorship money to widen their search for new commercial sponsors so they can break their close links with the alcohol industry.

“The GAA’s recent deal with Liberty Insurance, which will replace Guinness as one of the three main sponsors of the All-Ireland Hurling Championship, shows that not only should alcohol sponsorship be removed from sports in Ireland, but that it is possible without causing a serious financial impact for the sporting organisations involved,” said Conor Cullen, Communications Officer with Alcohol Action Ireland.

“The fact that Guinness is no longer one of the main sponsors of the All-Ireland Hurling Championship, one of the most high-profile sports competitions in Ireland, is a welcome development. However, it is very disappointing that the GAA has not taken this opportunity to show leadership when it comes to tackling alcohol-related harm in Ireland and completely cut its ties with the alcohol industry, but has instead decided to make its one remaining alcohol sponsor a ’Proud Partner’ of the organisation and Croke Park.

“This ’proud partnership’ of healthy activities – our national games, which so many Irish people feel so passionately about and proud of – with an unhealthy product that causes so much harm to our society is only going to serve to help prolong the existing and deeply worrying situation where our sports and the organisations that provide them are being used as a vehicle by the alcohol industry to market its products, particularly to the young people who are most at risk from them,” said Mr Cullen.

“We are not talking about an overnight ban on sports sponsorship, but rather phasing it out over a number of years, as recommended in the Steering Group Report on the National Substance Misuse Strategy, which would allow sporting organisations the time to follow the GAA’s lead and secure alternative sponsors from outside the alcohol industry, on which they have become so dependent.

“The fact is that we are talking about some of the most popular activities and high-profile competitions in this country and they will always attract sponsors. There are many good reasons that the alcohol companies pay big money to be associated with them and, should they be removed, those good reasons will certainly attract other sponsors from other sectors in their place, such as Liberty Insurance.

“We also hope that the recommendation to phase out alcohol sponsorship will be included in the Government’s forthcoming Alcohol Action Plan as we know that alcohol sponsorship of sports is effective when it comes to influencing the beliefs and behaviour of young people in relation to alcohol and the evidence shows that exposure to this kind of alcohol marketing increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol.”

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