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IRELAND: Drinks industry alarmed by sports sponsorship call

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Ireland's Alcohol Beverage Federation has strongly criticised a report by members of the country's Parliament that calls for a ban on drinks firms sponsoring sporting events.

The Irish Government should examine how to "phase out" alcohol sponsorship in sport "in as short a time as possible", said a report by the Irish Parliament's Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Sport, Community, Equality, and Gaeltacht Affairs. Its report, published last week, seeks ways to use sport to help curb alcohol abuse among under-18s.  

Its recommendation on sponsorship will be a serious concern to the drinks sector, which has significant exposure via sport. Heineken sponsors European rugby union tournament the Heineken Cup, while Diageo's Guinness sponsors international rugby and football matches, as well as hurling.

"We need to change the current conscious and sub-conscious association between sport and alcohol and alcohol and sport in the Irish psyche," said the Joint Committee. "Many alcohol drinks producers are involved in sponsoring sporting activities that bind the two activities closer together in the eyes of young people.

"This Committee wants to break that bond and establish instead the belief that the two activities are separate and can be seen as alternative pursuits for young people."

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) urged Committee members to "reconsider" and warned that an industry study showed that ending drinks sponsorship would be "ruinous" for sport.

ABFI director Rosemary Garth, said: "There is absolutely no evidence that responsible alcohol sponsorship leads to alcohol misuse. Removing our industry’s crucial financial support for sport in Ireland would simply punish the average fan or the amateur sportsman who will be left with fewer events to attend, teams to play with, or facilities to enjoy.

"That would be an utterly counterproductive outcome, and I would urge the authors of today’s report to consider the full implications of their recommendation,” she added.

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