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Committee: Sponsorship of sport by alcohol companies ‘should remain in place’

An Oireachtas Committee has published a series of recommendations today on the government proposals to ban alcohol companies from sponsoring sport.

Image: Nick Potts/PA Archive

Updated 1.53pm

A GROUP OF TDs and Senators has rejected proposals to ban alcohol companies from sponsoring sports events in a report published today.

The report of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications says that sponsorship by the alcohol drinks industry should remain in place until identifiable streams of alternative funding can be found.

A ban will have a negative and detrimental impact on the funding of Irish sport with no obvious source of alternative funding for sporting organisations, the committee believes.

Committee member Dessie Ellis, a Sinn Féin TD, earlier told TheJournal.ie: “The main recommendation is that the committee doesn’t feel that the banning of the advertisements is going to have major effect [from a health point of view], but it’s going to have a detrimental effect on sport.”

The Department of Health had originally proposed the phasing out of alcohol sponsorship of sporting and cultural events by 2016, a recommendation that was considered by the committee, which held public hearings earlier this year.

However recent reports have suggested that the junior health minister Alex White will propose that the ban could be pushed out to 2020 with arts and cultural events excluded – a proposal that the committee today rejects saying that arts and sport should be treated in the same way.

This is one of seven recommendations in the report with another being that sponsorship should remain in place. The five other recommendations are:

  • A code of practice for consumption of alcohol in sports arenas should be drafted by all sporting organisations.
  • Drinks companies who sponsor sports should have a fixed percentage of their funding diverted to a fund used exclusively for use by alcohol and substance abuse prevention programmes.
  • A mandatory code for brand owners and rights-holders to “provide responsible training in selling, advertising and marketing”.
  • Sporting organisations should be “encouraged” to support programmes that encourage social inclusion in order to reduce alcohol abuse, “particularly among young people”.
  • Any ban should be considered if it is done on a EU-wide basis to ensure sporting organisations “are not operating at a disadvantage”.

Ellis, speaking prior to the publication of the report yesterday, said that it was the view of the committee that any ban should be rolled-out on a phased basis and not in the current economic climate.

It is thought that some members of the committee have dissented from this position, preferring an outright ban.

TDs and Senators on the committee held hearings earlier this year where representatives from the GAA, the FAI and the IRFU all said that the removal of sponsorship would have a devastating impact on their funding and futures.

Their evidence is cited in the report and forms its recommendations.

Ellis said that a ban would have a big impact at a local level: “You have to think in terms of a lot of the local clubs. Some advertise local pubs on their jerseys and all these things have to be taken into account, where are they going to get the sponsorship from?”

Responding to the publication of the report today, Alcohol Action Ireland’s Professor Joe Barry said: “Sadly, it seems our sporting organisations are too dependent on alcohol money to do the right thing.

“We need our legislators to do that for us and a failure to do so would be a failure to protect future Irish generations from the huge amount of alcohol-related harm that we currently experience.”

First published 6.15am

Read: Banning alcohol sponsorship of sport is ‘based on opinion, not evidence’

Minister: Alcohol sponsorship of sport is ‘complicated’

Vintners: Sports clubs could lose €3.5m if pubs banned from sponsorship

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Hugh O'Connell

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