Sports bodies speak out against proposed ban on alcohol sponsorship

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John Treacy, chief executive of the Irish Sports Council, Kieran Mulvey, the organisation’s chairman and Pat Hickey, president of the Olympic Council of Ireland have strongly spoken out against the proposed ban on alcohol sponsorship in sport.

From The Irish Times

Speaking to a Joint Committee on Transport and Communications chaired by Fine Gael TD and former Mayo football manager, John O’Mahony, Mr Mulvey strongly cautioned against any hasty moves to bring in legislation that would exclude alcohol companies such as Heineken and Guinness from putting money into Irish sports’ governing bodies such as the GAA and the IRFU, which enjoy relationships with both companies.

The meeting, ostensibly to answer questions specifically about Ireland’s performances at the Olympic Games in London last year and generally about the performances of elite Government-funded athletes and teams at international level, touched on the alcohol issue through a question from Fianna Fáil spokesman on Transport Tourism and Sport, Timmy Dooley.

Mr Dooley asked the three sports executives what their view was of the proposed ban on alcohol companies sponsoring sports events.

“If we withdraw drink sponsorship immediately we will destroy some of our international teams,” said Mr Mulvey. “I feel that we need a responsible relationship between drink and sport.”

Mr Mulvey added that because of the location of his offices he often sees the patrons of music events after concerts in Aviva Stadium causing drink-related problems but had yet to see any similar disorder due to drunkenness after sports events at the same venue.

He added: “We have to be cautious. Alcohol is not about sport. It is not about sports sponsorship. It is a societal issue. If we withdraw alcohol sponsorship from sport in one fell swoop is the State going to replace that money and put in extra funds to sport? The answer is that it is not.”

Chairman of the Irish Sports Council, John Tracey, an Olympic silver medallist at the 1984 Los Angeles games , said price, availability and the promotion of alcohol in colleges were critical issues and also cautioned that there needed “to be real consultation with sports organisations”.

Mr Tracey pointed to the massive exposure Irish rugby had received in recent years and the success of Leinster, Munster and Ulster in the Heineken Cup.

“All of us have been spoiled watching our rugby teams, be it Leinster, Munster or Ulster and the success they have brought to Ireland,” he said. “If that [sponsorship] is taken out we will not be able to compete to keep the players we have in Ireland. We have to really think about the consequences of what this decision would have.”

Mr Hickey pointed out that the International Olympic Committee does not have any alcohol sponsors involved in the funding of Olympic Games. However, he said: “I absolutely agree with what John and Kieran had to say. But I want to make this point. The International Olympic Committee is the only sports committee that doesn’t have alcohol sponsorship.”

Earlier this year IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said alcohol-related sponsorship was worth € 9 million to rugby, while John Delaney, the FAI’s chief executive said it was worth a significant portion of the FAI’s overall sponsorship revenue of € 6 million. The GAA director general, Paraic Duffy, said alcohol sponsorship was a small portion of his organisation’s overall revenue.