Should alcohol sponsorship of sporting events be banned?
Filed under: News
Some would argue it re-enforces the association of alcohol at sporting events which are often family days out, normalising from an early age the presence of alcohol at fixtures.
Banning alcohol sponsorship during sporting events is odd to argue for when you support the English national teams. Whether it's football, cricket or this year's Olympics, drinking heavily is part of the experience, to temper the frustration, act as a emotional crutch, and of course drunkeness gives hope that the England football team could win Euro 2012.
So it's no surprise the alcohol industry spends on average £800m a year marketing its products. Brewers and cider producers will be praying for a long, hot summer to boost profits and because the UK will have an extended holiday for the Diamond Jubilee, the advertising spend will probably double. There will be no escape for those seeking sobriety.
But the statistics are slowly moving against the cultural arguments for turning a blind eye to binge drinking. Austerity measures are adding the pressures on low income families and the NHS.
The IFS recently highlighted the impact of the new 40p minimum pricing on alcohol would have the largest impact on low income households. Heavy drinkers in this social bracket will lose 5.9% of their grocery budget on average due to this price change.
Alcohol-related illness places a chronic burden on the NHS, estimated at £2.7bn per year, and think of the poor A&E staff who face roughly 945,000 hospital admissions a year related to alcohol abuse and injuries. Underage drinkers cost the health service £19m a year and this figure is predicted to rise. Diabetes, the 'disease of plenty', is one of the long-term threats not only to health but to the economy. Imagine in 20 years time, Man City finally win another league title and the pitch is flooded by drunk fans churning up the grass on their mobility scooters.
Formula One has survived the decline of tobacco advertising and has found new avenues for sponsorship especially in financial services. The days of Gazza and the England team enjoying the delights of the dentist chair seem an anachronism. Interesting that England new manager Roy Hodgson told the tabloids that he would "expect adult behaviour" from his players. Watching John Terry et al sponsored by Jagermeister really wouldn't send the right message to the young.
The idea that sponsorship from alcohol companies for sporting events needs to be banned is nonsense and it's surprising to see the Irish, of all nations, now deciding they'll outlaw the practice altogether.
Australians have a word for the temperance mob, those who look down their noses at anyone who enjoys a drink – wowser.
And it's the wowsers of this world who take the moral high ground on any booze-related matter as if the mere mention of the word 'alcohol' will lead to loss of mind, job, family and social status, in no particular order.
So they frown at the sponsorship of Victoria Bitter for the Australian Cricket Team in the West Indies. They would scowl at the Carling Cup, one of football's flagship events and the traditional season-opener.
And the Hennessy Gold Cup, which is now British racing's longest commercial sponsorship would see them foaming at the mouth and rolling on the ground and the though of cognac-addled teens running riot across the country.
In an academic attempt in 2010 to examine if alcohol sponsorship in sport affected attitudes to its use, the Cardiff Business School found the answer was 'No'.
In fact, the study found that boys between the ages of 14 and 15 years old with sporting interests were influenced towards drinking and drunkenness more by the traditional macho sporting culture rather that the presence of alcohol sponsorship.
In the case of girls, the study found alcohol sponsorship in sport had no impact at all on their attitudes to drinking.
So the science bit seems clear. But what about the commercial side of it all? Large drinks companies pour billions of pounds into sporting events across the world every year.
To blanket ban the activity because you don't like the product is typical wowser behaviour. In some instances, it's the money earned through sponsorship that allows sport to flourish. When you see, particularly at Olympic level, how hand-to-mouth some athletes actually live just so they can pursue their chosen sport, you understand that even a little sponsorship cash can make all the difference.
But for some reason, there are people who don't see that. They imagine beer sponsorship of a rugby game leads to alcohol abuse and the destruction of society.
It's time this argument was put to rest as the wowser propaganda it is.
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