Committee opposes ban on alcohol sponsorship

Politicians are opposing any ban on alcohol sponsorship of sporting events and instead want an “addiction” fund set up and stronger regulations for marketing drink.

The recommendations by the Oireachtas committee on transport and communications are expected to outrage health groups and the medical profession.

The Irish Examiner has learnt that the committee’s report — to be launched today — concludes that sporting organisations would “suffer inordinately if legislation for such a prohibition was introduced”.

The committee has concluded that any ban on sponsorship would have to be implemented at EU level to be effective.

A fixed percentage of sponsorship funds received by sporting, cultural, and arts groups among others from drinks companies should be ring-fenced and paid into a central fund to tackle alcohol abuse, the committee recommends.

Other recommendations include:

* A code of practice for the consumption of alcohol within stadia should be drawn up by sporting organisations;

* Brand owners must provide training to those selling and marketing drink and promote responsible drinking at events;

* Any ban on sponsorship can only be considered if it is done on a pan-European basis so Irish sporting bodies are not left at a disadvantage relative to international competitors;

* Sporting organisations should be encouraged to support programmes which contribute to social inclusion to help reduce the abuse of alcohol, particularly among young people.

A number of sporting bodies, including Horse Racing Ireland, the Football Association of Ireland, and the GAA made submissions to the committee.

The Irish Rugby Football Union says drink sponsorship generates €9m annually for the sport and there have also been warnings that any ban on the sponsorship of events could damage Ireland’s hopes of hosting the 2023 rugby world cup.

But the committee’s recommendation against a ban on alcohol sponsorship are likely to anger Alcohol Action Ireland and members of the College of Psychiatrists, two groups who submitted proposals backing the ban to committee TDs and senators.

The Cabinet is reviewing an action plan to address alcohol addiction, which includes proposals on ending alcohol sponsorship of major sporting events by 2020.

The action plan also deals with proposals to limit the sale of cheap drink and where it is sold in super-markets. The committee recommendations are likely to pile pressure on ministers to drop any plans for a drinks sponsorship ban.

Ministers have mixed opinions on such a ban and a decision on it, which has been promised for months, is now expected to be delayed until the autumn.

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