Funds source sought to end drinks sponsorship

Alcohol sponsorship of major sports events will be phased out, but not until alternative sources of funding for sporting organisations are found, ministers have agreed.

Nor has a date or time period been agreed on the issue of banning drink companies sponsoring sporting events, Government sources said yesterday.

Speaking in Donegal, Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirm-ed that ministers were presented with details from one of the health ministers about measures to tackle excessive drinking.

He said: “We recognise this is a complex issue. There is still a great deal more work to be done. We did not put any dates on this because there’s a great deal more to be considered.”

Agreement on a package of measures to eventually ban sports sponsorship by alcohol companies was reached at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting last Monday. Other measures which look set to be agreed include a ban on below-cost selling of drinks and restrictions on drinks advertising.

Despite reports yesterday that 2020 is when sponsorship must cease completely, sources close to ministers said nothing was set in stone until alternative funding sources were identified.

The Government’s long-awaited action plan on alcohol sponsorship had been expected to come before Cabinet before the summer break. Ministers, following months of wrangling, are instead likely to agree to a package of measures in September.

Ministers last week discussed alternatives for funding, which could include a special tax on alcohol or grants from the exchequer for sporting groups. One option being considered is a “social responsibility levy”, which could be sourced as an extra tax from drink.

Ministers have considered an option used in Australia, which sources funds from the extra tax on drinks. However, such an option is likely to be strongly opposed by drink companies.

Alcohol sponsorship forms a major source of funds for sporting groups. The IRFU says drink sponsorship generates €9m a year. There have also been warnings that any ban on sponsorship of events could damage Ireland’s hopes of hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Health Minister James Reilly and Alex White, the junior health minister, are pushing for a ban on drinks companies while Sports Minister Leo Varadkar, supported by Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan, is opposed to the measure without alternative sources of funding.

A source close to the ministers opposing the ban last night said: “It’s been made absolutely clear that there can be no consideration of a ban until such time as alternative funding has been identified and made available to sporting organisations.”

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