Defending Stance on Alcohol and Sport

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 13.37.31-1The hurler on the ditch always speaks loudly about how things should be done better, about how those on the pitch should really be made to step aside so he can do things as they should be done.

Davy Fitzgerald is hearing their voices this weekend, as are many who have chosen to enter the arena and put their reputation on the line.

A little closer to home those who have stepped up voluntarily to engage the nation in a healthy and vigorous debate about how we can change the reality of our problems with a culture and society that is soaked in alcohol, have been berated in recent weeks for daring to spend €1 million on a national campaign of public debate.

Sport for Business is among them.  As the founder of our community I sit on the Board of the Campaign to Stop Out of Control Drinking and have overseen the striking ads that are running across the country in posters and on radio.

I have supported Fergus Finlay and fellow board members including Kieran Mulvey of the Irish Sports Council, Brian MacCraith, the President of DCU, Simon Keogh of IRUPA, Aine Lynch of the National Parents Council, Joanna Fortune, Anne Connolly, Paul Gilligan, Gemma Doorley, Gavin Duffy and politician Charlie O’Connor.


B_W99tyXAAEJ9Iq.jpg-largeWe have been criticised for daring to start the debate because we are spending money supplied by Diageo.  That we are doing so with complete independence, and more importantly, increasing recognition from the public is ignored in the rush to condemn us by those who perhaps feel this is their ‘patch’ and how dare we seek to make a difference.

I am hearing from fellow parents, fellow coaches and friends that this is a good thing to raise and that it is making them stop and think.  That is our aim, and it is working.

None of the board members are being paid.  In our case Diageo and Heineken are members of the Sport for Business community, as might be expected in their role as major sponsors, but are only two of over 120 organisations that are.

Other groups employ full time executives to highlight issues around alcohol but in the past month have spent more time being offended by our involvement as a group in ‘their’ debate.


None of them have overseen the kind of advertising that we have put out in order to start this campaign.

None of them have answered our invitation to input to our independent engagement with the public in the four corners of Ireland.

They say that there is a machiavellian plot hatched by Diageo to keep everyone drinking as much as they possibly can.

They say we are compromised by the fact that they still spend more on sports sponsorship, which they are adamant should be banned, on music sponsorship and TV advertising, upon which they are much less vocal.

They argue for prohibition as the only effective solution.  Perhaps they are unaware of the abject failure that proved in the 1920’s.

Perhaps they find it difficult to accept that in France in modern times the leader of the main lobby group for alcohol damage awareness admits that the alcohol ban on sport in his country has been ineffective.

Throwing stones

Perhaps they are more comfortable throwing stones than using them to build a bridge from where we are to where we could be as a nation which sees being drunk as a stigma rather than a badge of honour.

Perhaps they would rather maintain worthy debates among those who know best than let the people have their say.

Some of those who have questioned us have done so from a position of genuinely held belief.  They have at least been willing to enter a discussion and in many cases to suspend judgement until they see what emerges.

All we ask is that people give time to this campaign, to see if we can make a difference where others have failed.  We are not urging a halt to all other attempts, indeed there remains an open invitation to be part of what we are trying to do, on the dollar, so to speak of the drinks companies who are recognising that drink becoming drunk is no longer an acceptable way to sell their product.

I and those named above on the Board are willing to hold our heads up and listen to all opinion, we want to build that bridge.  Others might heed the words currently in vogue as part of an ad campaign for Cadillac in the US which were spoken by President Theodore Roosevelt 105 years ago but which resonate still.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


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