The country’s three largest sporting bodies all said that a proposal to ban sponsorship of major sporting events by drinks firms would have a devastating impact on the funding of their respective sports, especially at club and community level.
They also warned that income from the sponsorship of drinks firms allowed them to provide a range of initiatives which helped young people to live a healthy lifestyle, as well as bid for major events like the European Soccer Championship in 2020 and Rugby World Cup in 2023.
FAI chief executive John Delaney, who was joined by his counterparts from the GAA and IRFU, said the FAI had become more reliant on sponsorship in recent years as a result of reduced support from the Irish Sport Council, reduced ticket prices, and Vat increases.
He said the FAI would already be working with other sponsors than drink firms if alternatives existed, but they didn’t. Sponsorship already helped the FAI to fund late-night leagues which took place during peak times for antisocial activity.
The Oireachtas committee on transport and communications heard that incidents of antisocial behaviour had fallen 26% on average in areas where such leagues operated.
Mr Delaney claimed the proposed ban made no sense and stressed that sponsorship by alcohol firms was already well regulated.
Any loss of income from sponsorship would impact on funding for community programmes as the national team would always be the FAI’s priority, said Mr Delaney.
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said there was no empirical evidence to show that a ban on sponsorship by drinks firms has had any impact on reducing levels of alcohol misuse.
He warned that any restriction placed on such sponsorship would place direct financial pressure on rugby clubs and curtail their activities.
Mr Browne said a ban would also hamper the IRFU’s plans to bid to host major international events, as well as impacting negatively on the financing of its professional squads.
The IRFU claimed any lack of competitiveness by the Irish rugby team and the four provincial sides would ultimately affect the organisation’s ability to recruit players into the sport.
GAA director general Páraic Duffy said the association already played a very active role in highlighting the dangers of alcohol abuse to its young members through an extensive education programme.
Mr Duffy said the Government would be better off tackling the issue through placing restrictions on the availability of alcohol and making it more expensive.
Labour TD Eamonn Maloney said he favoured the proposed ban as he believed drinks firms used sports sponsorship as a cover to gain respectability for a harmful substance.
Independent TD Luke “Ming” Flanagan agreed and noted that sports bodies had become dependent on drinks sponsorship, which he viewed as an unhealthy connection.
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