Sport for Business is a founder member of a new campaign aimed at changing the culture of drinking in Ireland. ‘Stop Out of Control Drinking’ was launched in Dublin yesterday and while it attracted some criticism from campaigners against alcohol because of the backing it has received from Diageo, we are pleased to be a part of the Board because of what it’s aims are and what it can achieve.
Chairman Fergus Finlay spoke of the toxic romance we have with alcohol. About how we cannot have a family gathering from christenings to funerals without drink being a central part. This is not the norm elsewhere as we might imagine it to be and it is certainly not normal to have our national character defined around the world not by drink as we might think but by drunkenness.
There are eight reasons why we believe it is right for us as a sporting and business organisation to be involved in this campaign.
1. It’s personal. As a parent and a coach I am concerned about how alcohol can impair the lives of my children, their friends and members of the sporting clubs I am involved with.
2. It’s about responsibility. Children and those around us take their cues on behaviour from those around them, those they respect and listen to. Sport is often the most influential element at a vital stage of young lives. Teachers and parents are authority figures they have no choice but to hear if not listen to. Sports coaches can be different. They need to be aware of the picture they paint on alcohol consumption and perception. Alcohol sponsorship of sport allows greater reach of programmes and activities that benefit young people. In taking that dollar though sport needs to face the responsibility of acting as a good role model.
3. It’s not about teenagers on street corners. It’s about us. It’s about you. When we take a drink we should ask ourselves why. When we have another glass do we really need it to be more sociable, witty, entertaining or whatever. When your child comes home ‘the worse for wear’ as we euphemistically say was that their fault, their friends or was some of the responsibility yours?
4. We need to think. I was at an U14 representative team meeting for parents last week and we were asked to take great care on social media posting pictures celebrating success at this level holding up alcohol or in a bar setting. The request was not so surprising but the fact it had to be said was. This campaign is about asking people to think again about what they consider as ‘normal’ behaviour.
5. Change is possible. People have said that ‘sure, we’ll never change our attitude to drink, it’s part of what we are.’ I never accept that because something is that’s the way it should always be. Smoking in bars was once an impossible thing to seek to change. Drink driving was once seen as the only way to get back from the pub. Driving with a seatbelt was once seen as the nanny state telling us what to do. But when we stop and think, we often see the important things in life from a different perspective.
6. Because we are setting it up but everyone is invited to be part of the conversation. The Board involves leaders from the medical community in Ciara Kelly and Joanna Fortune, from the mental health community in Paul Gilligan and Krystian Fikert, from Sport in Rob Hartnett, Kieran Mulvey and Simon Keogh, from culture in Gemma Doorly, from society groups in Fergus Finlay, Anne Connolly and Aine Lynch, from education in Professor Brian MacCraith, from politics in Charlie O’Connor and from business in David Smith and Gavin Duffy.
7. It’s easy to throw stones but we have control of an initial seven figure budget to get people talking, thinking and changing the way in which we see alcohol as such an integral part of our identity.
8. We don’t know all or indeed many of the answers but we have the capacity to find them. The campaign starts now and you are invited to join us at rolemodels.ie. There will be public ‘town hall’ meetings in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway through March and a campaign built that will over the next five years make us smarter about we we deal with alcohol. It can work if you choose to join us on the journey.