UK: Call for ban on sports advertising by drinks brands

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A Labour MP in the UK has called for a ban on alcohol advertising at sports events, which would include a ban on sponsorship.

Howard Stoate, MP for Dartford and a member of the Fabian Society, said marketing at sporting events made a link between alcohol and success in sport, and encouraged young people to drink.

"Watch any top-flight football match these days on television and you'll see dozens of references to alcohol products," Stoate said. "You see drinks firms' logos on team shirts, drinks commercials at half-time and bottles of Champagne for the 'man of the match'; the list is endless."

Stoate said the UK needed "a more radical measure" to prevent alcohol companies from associating themselves with professional sport. "A complete ban on alcohol advertising or sponsorship within sport is the only way of achieving this," he said. "Alcohol advertising shouldn't be allowed anywhere near live sporting events or sport on television." Stoate claimed strong public and Parliamentary support for the move.

However, Rob Hayward, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), said Stoate's case for a change in the law was ill-founded. "All the evidence shows that advertising and sponsorship has absolutely no influence on the amount that people drink and even more importantly doesn't influence those who are drinking irresponsibly," he told just-drinks. "So getting rid of advertising and sponsorship will simply damage the vast amount of cultural, community and sporting events that benefit from our investment, and do nothing to tackle alcohol abuse in the UK."

Regarding the particular accusation that sports-related advertising and sponsorship makes alcohol more attractive to young people, Hayward added: "There is zero evidence that that is true and if he believes that to be true he needs to come up with the evidence to prove that before launching a campaign of this nature."

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association, meanwhile, said that current self-regulatory measures covering marketing communication through sport were strict and had been successful.

However, Stoate's move could bring the debate over drinks sponsorship of sporting events, a controversial subject which has long attracted the attention of campaign groups, once again to the fore.

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