Moving on the Sport Alcohol Debate

Alcohol and sport 2014 2Guinness’ sponsorship of the PRO12 and extension of a deal with the Galway Races for another five years has raised the issue of alcohol sponsorship in sport again.

Last night on Today FM’s The Last Word Rob Hartnett of Sport for Business debated some of the issues with Joe Barry of Alcohol Action Ireland. You can listen back to the interview here from 40:04

Recommendations

Last year the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport made six recommendations one of which was to reject the idea of an alcohol sponsorship ban unless a comparable stream of funding could be found.

The other five were very sensible and very achievable around responsibility, ring fencing of portions of the income for education programmes and the need to look at it in the context of pan-European restrictions. You can read Sport for Business detailed review of the recommendations here.

As is often the case though that report was seen as a step along the way rather than an end to the debate.  Since then it has been sent to the Department of an Taoiseach and Junior Health Minister Alex White has maintained a strong position on prohibition.

Hickie

Respected former rugby international Denis Hickie recently came out in favour of a ban and the debate still has a lot of heat around a very important area.

Both sides make very strong points about social damage on one side social and community enabling on the other.  There is always a danger that each side is so busy making its own points that it does not hear what the other side is saying.

One key element remains the supply of evidence on both sides.  Joe Barry questioned last night the actual amount of money that does flow into sport here from the alcohol companies.  Perhaps there is a formal audit that needs to be undertaken not broken down by brand or sport but in an overall context.

Evidence

On the other side proponents of a ban always state the evidence of alcohol damage in homes and hospitals but there is a lack of public evidence based research on the impact of a ban.

Dr Alain Rigaud of the French body responsible for alcohol education and control the Association Nationale de Prévention en Alcologie et Addictologie told the UK House of Commons Health Committee in 2012 that the effects of the Loi Evin which banned alcohol promotion across a range of activities including sport were ‘weak’ and that regulation along those lines were only of symbolic importance.

Moving Forward

Sport for Business is an enabler go greater contact and greater understanding between sport business and society.  We have held one round table on the subject previously and now perhaps it is time for another.

Next week we will issue invitations to key opinion formers on both sides of the debate.  We will invite Alex White if he remains in position after the cabinet reshuffle, and those from groups where the impact is being felt and managed.  We will create a forum less where people can talk, and more where that can listen.  It will be in camera to enable a full and frank exchange of views and at the end we may be able to move understanding forward even if only by a short distance.

The megaphone diplomacy of radio programmes and parliamentary debate is an essential part of a democracy though it is not often the most effective way of coming to the right decisions.

Sport for Business is a Members’ Organisation bringing together leaders in sport, business and society.  Find out more about what we do today.

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