This Friday, 12th November, the regulations about the promotion of alcohol sponsorship within sporting stadia in Ireland will become much tighter.

No longer will we see the painting of a major Heineken or Guinness logo in the centre of the pitch for games in the Heineken European Champions Cup or the Guinness Six Nations, at least for matches in the Aviva Stadium or Thomond Park.

No longer will we see the goalpost protection padding or the sideline flags bear those same logos.

The new legislation is part of a 2018 Act, the implementation of these elements of which has been postponed until now.

We started considering the changes that might happen a full decade ago and we wrote in 2015 that these very restrictions were to be part of what would be enacted.

It is not by a long way the worst-case scenario of what might have been imposed on the sport. There is no restriction on the ability of major brands to continue to support sport, and the restriction on promotion within the ground only applies to the playing area for the duration of the match.

Pre-match, post-match trophy presentations and pitch-side hoardings promoting those familiar brands in rugby, and that of Carlsberg in football, will still be allowed and it will become apparent from the application and the enforcement of the law, how strict things will need to be in terms of sleeve badges on shirts or the ball.

None of the restrictions will apply to Kingspan Stadium in Belfast despite the fact that its matches are governed by the one sporting body which will add to the sense of something different for sponsors, fans and players.

Last Week Sport for Business held a Members Event to discuss some of the changes and share information across some of our major sporting bodies, stadium operators sponsors and the agencies that advise them.

We are fortunate that we have a mature and responsible group of major sponsors in this space for whom operating within the regulations is accepted and pushing the boundaries is something that is not a default position.

The regulations will be in place for the Autumn Series Rugby International against New Zealand on Saturday, for the opening matches of the Heineken Cup in the coming weeks and for the Guinness Six Nations in the Spring.

It moves us closer to the regulations that have long been in place under the Loi Vin in France and we are now out of sync with our near neighbours in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

How that difference plays out over the coming years will be interesting to observe but the sense from last week’s meeting is that what needs to be done will be done and that what might in advance have seemed like a major change, will be adapted to by all those affected.

Our thanks to all those individuals and organisations who took part in the meeting. It was a fine example of doing what we do in bringing smart minds together to tease out issues of mutual concern.


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