A Government spokesperson confirmed yesterday that ‘broad agreement in principle’ had been reached on implementing a ban on alcohol sponsorship in sport but that no detail had been agreed on a date and that replacement funding for the possible €30 million a year it is worth would have to be found.
The latter was floated yesterday as coming from Government via a proposal outlined by Sport for Business as having been effective to a point in Australia, albeit with minority sports.
We also suggested that the amount needed to ensure no financial shortfall and corresponding loss of participation programmes would be roughly the equivalent of the budget of the Road Safety Authority where public money was being spent, with notable effect, on public health promotion.
It is apparently now down to Health Junior Minister Alex White to prepare a memo for cabinet on its return from the summer recess in September.
As he ponders how to untie the gordian knot of morality, health and funding of sports participation he may wish to consider the series we published on the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee this month and also the following six questions.
1. A long term reduction in alcohol consumption would reduce the cost to the health service of treating abuse but there is a longer lead time on this than would be normal for Government planning and money to replace the sponsorship would need to be made available before the savings had come through. In business terms, while it would be the right thing to do it will present a cash flow problem.
2. Sponsorship has changed over recent years from being a simple naming rights deal to a marketing medium that extends deep within the promotional DNA of organisations with whom a relationship is formed. If direct sponsorship is banned will the use of sporting imagery or language also be banned from general alcohol advertising or is that even possible given companies international approach to events like the World Cup or the UEFA Champions’ League.
3. With a ban on alcohol sponsorship that does not extend across Europe, will it be possible for Ireland to bid for major sports tournaments as is planned for the Rugby World Cup 2023 or the UEFA European Championships is 2020. France 2016 will need to be studied closely to see the impact there but FIFA did feel the need to force legislative change on Brazil prior to next summers World Cup there.
4. Where will the line be drawn in terms of the sale of alcohol at sporting venues? Will drink sales be banned at games? Will outlets have to sell with no branding? Is there likely to be an impact on the ability of sporting clubs to run bars? Will the financial impact of this be met from Government as well?
5. Will sport be banned from being able to benefit from philanthropic programmes such as the Arthur Guinness Projects which will distribute €750,000 to innovative sporting projects over the next three years?
6. Sometimes it is the ‘outliers’ that point out the extent of problems with a change to regulation. Will the ban on sporting sponsorship mean that Irish sporting records will no longer be legal to feature as part of the Guinness Book of Records? At least in copies that are sold here, and if they are does that not set a precedent for alcohol companies being able to use sporting imagery and marks in media controlled by themselves? Just a thought.
We have long stated that the broad principle of reducing the link between sport and alcohol was good for society as a whole but it does give rise to a series of complex dependencies which if not considered with care will potentially lead to a more damaging ‘cure’ than the problem it intends to address in the first place.
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