Drink companies’ sport sponsorship ‘requires scrutiny’

THE culture of major sports events and summer festivals being heavily sponsored by drinks companies needs to be closely scrutinised if the problem of alcohol abuse if to be adequately tackled, a public health specialist has stressed.

Professor Joe Barry said that alcohol companies have targeted sporting events through sponsorship of GAA events, rugby and, to a lesser extent, soccer.

Pointing to the fact that children wear Celtic shirts emblazoned with the Carling logo and Liverpool strips promoting Carlsberg, Prof Barry said: “The companies do not put their names on these jerseys for fun. They can be associated with getting people to drink.”

The Cork-born population health medicine specialist, based at Trinity College Dublin, said it was a fact of life that many people’s heroes have had problems with drink, and that causes its own problems.

“It’s a tragedy but it hasn’t stopped it from happening. Trying to get the balance right between being a killjoy and highlighting the dangers is quite difficult,” he said.

Speaking at a conference on substance and alcohol misuse in Killarney, he called for legislation to impose stricter controls on the sale of alcohol in off-licenses and supermarkets.

“There should be no below-cost selling. Having alcohol available at pocket money prices makes it attractive to anybody, particularly young people who don’t have a lot of money, and those desperately wanting alcohol.

“To do yourself harm in a pub is a lot more difficult because, for one thing, it is a lot more expensive.”

Prof Barry, a member of Alcohol Action Ireland, said there was a danger that alcohol company sponsorship of popular television series like Desperate Housewives may make it more acceptable for people, particularly women, to consume too much alcohol at home.

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