Warning on sport drink sponsor ban
The coalition Government is facing a second revolt after a cross-party group warned against banning alcohol sponsorship of sport.
With Labour pushing for an end to the lucrative business, the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications has said Ireland should only go that far if it is an order from Europe. Its report found that sporting organisations would suffer inordinately if a ban was imposed.
Vice-chariman of the committee John O'Mahony, a Fine Gael TD and running mate of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, said members had not been convinced that sport sponsorship by drinks companies leads to alcohol abuse.
"The majority held the view that the link between sponsorship and the misuse of alcohol in society had not been established and, consequently, the committee feels that banning sponsorship of sports by the alcohol industry is not merited at this time," he said. "In the current economic climate, the report argues, the main sporting organisations in this country would suffer inordinately if legislation for such a prohibition was introduced."
A Department of Health report last year recommended drinks firms be banned from sponsoring sporting and cultural events by 2016.
Instead, the committee has called for sport to be treated in the same way as the arts, music and other festivals and said that a ban should not be considered until other streams of comparable funding are found. It said a fixed percentage of sponsorship paid by alcohol companies to sports organisations should be ring-fenced to reduce alcohol misuse.
It said that sports bodies should support programmes which contribute to social inclusion to reduce the abuse of alcohol, particularly among young people and it also wants rules on the consumption of alcohol in stadia.
The committee warned that Ireland would be disadvantaged if it led the way across Europe on banning sponsorship of sport.
The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) claims alcohol-related sponsorship is worth nine million euro to the organisation while the Football Association of Ireland puts it at six million euro and the GAA insists it is only a small portion of overall revenue.
Leo Varadkar, Transport Minister, is understood to be opposed to a blanket ban, as are other leading Fine Gael figures, but Tanaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is understood to be open to it. Labour junior minister in the Department of Health Alex White is also open to the ban.