Alcohol Sponsorship and Europe

Analysis of Committee Recommendations on Alcohol and Sport

Dan Tuohy is given a yellow card 21/1/2012Banning Alcohol in Ireland as part of Europe

Two weeks ago the Oireachtas Committee investigating a proposed ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport  ruled against the merit of a ban, suggesting a number of alternative measures in its place.

Day by day we have considered each of those recommendations, the basis on which it was made, how it might be put into practice and how it might have been put in place elsewhere around the world. Today we conclude our review with a look at the recommendation concerning pan-European action.

Day Seven: A prohibition on sponsorship by the alcohol industry should only be considered if it is done on a pan-European basis in order to ensure that Irish sports and sporting organisations are not operating at a disadvantage relative to their international competitors.

One of the strongest arguments used for and against regulation is the context in which it can operate within the framework of the European Union.

A ban on alcohol sponsorship has existed in France for many years, introduced at the same time as restrictions on tobacco advertising in 1991 as part of what is known as the ‘Loi Evin’.

There is conflicting research over the impact the ban has had on drinking in a different culture to that of Ireland but the most obvious manifestation of the law has been that the Heineken Cup can only be referenced in France as the H Cup, albeit with very similar branding.

Irish sporting bodies have argued that a ban on alcohol would damage the prospect of hosting major events and tournaments in this country with a potential bid for elements of the UEFA European Championships in 2020 and the entire Rugby World Cup in 2023 as the most high profile examples.

Against this argument France will in fact host the last single nation European Championships in 2016 and little has been made, at least yet, of whether alcohol promotion restrictions will be sought to be changed.

FIFA has insisted on changes to the law in Brazil ahead of the 2014 World Cup, with pressure being brought to bear to accommodate major sponsors that are involved in brewing.

Perhaps of greater strength in terms of calling for action only as part of a Europe wide approach is the prevalence of broadcast sport beamed into Ireland from elsewhere.  The Barclays Premier League and the RBS Six Nations would regularly feature among the top sports broadcast events and with most events taking place in countries without an outright ban, the benefit of such action here would be undermined.

The higher proportion of alcohol related sponsorship in Ireland would also make a ban here much more impactful on sport than might be the case elsewhere, particularly on indigenous sport and local programmes that might be taken over in terms of interest by sports broadcast from elsewhere.

In June 2013 the European Sponsorship Association came out against an outright ban on alcohol sponsorship pointing out the value of responsible drinking messages that form a major part of modern alcohol promotion and the fact that without the financial support that programmes and facilities which keep young people away from alcohol at a key time of their life would likely be cut back.

Catch up with the rest of this series

Day One: Sponsorship by the Alcohol Drinks Industry should remain in place until such time as it can be replaced by other identifiable streams of comparable funding.

Day Two: A Code of Practice for the consumption of alcohol within stadia should be drawn- up by all sporting organisations.

Day Three: A fixed percentage of all sponsorship received by each and every organisation (sporting, cultural, arts, music etc.) from the alcohol drinks industry, should be ring-fenced and paid into a central fund to be administered by an appropriate body. That fund should be used exclusively for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention Programmes.

Day Four: Sponsorship of sports and sporting events should be treated in the same way as sponsorship of the arts, music and other festivals.

Day Five: A Code should be introduced to make it mandatory for all brand owners and rights-holders to provide responsible training in selling, advertising and marketing and to promote responsible drinking at all sponsored events.

Day Six: All sporting organisations should be encouraged to support programmes which contribute to social inclusion in order to reduce the abuse of alcohol, particularly among young people.

Day Seven: A prohibition on sponsorship by the alcohol industry should only be considered if it is done on a pan-European basis in order to ensure that Irish sports and sporting organisations are not operating at a disadvantage relative to their international competitors.

The Committee report can be downloaded here

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