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Mongan, Deirdre (2010) Sponsorship of sports events by the alcohol industry. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 35, Autumn 2010, p. 12.

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There is a link between alcohol marketing and consumption. According to a WHO report, ‘in markets where alcohol is more widely advertised young people are more likely to continue to increase their drinking as they move into their mid-twenties, whereas drinking declines at an earlier age among those who are less exposed.’1 Sports events are widely sponsored by alcohol brands. Sports sponsorship by the alcohol industry provides an opportunity to build the alcohol brand into the name of the event through mention in sports commentaries, signage on clothing and sports grounds, and products retailed to fans.  

The Department of Health and Children established a working group in 2008 to deliver on the commitment in the programme for government to discuss the question of the sponsorship of sporting events by the alcohol industry with a view to phasing it out.2 The group’s terms of reference were:
·         To facilitate engagement among stakeholders, including representatives from the main sporting organisations in Ireland and the alcohol industry regarding this issue
·         To establish the extent of the existing sponsorship of sporting events by the alcohol industry and the terms and lengths of existing contracts
·         To report to the Minister for Health and Children by 30 September 2009.
Conclusions of the working group
The working group accepted that sport has many benefits and contributes to Irish society, while also recognising that alcohol is responsible for many harms in Ireland. While all members were willing to play their part in reducing this harm, views diverged on how this might be achieved. A population health approach seeking to reduce overall alcohol consumption was favoured by some, while others were in favour of focusing on specific at-risk groups and on the drinking patterns of people who use alcohol harmfully.
It was not possible to establish the full financial extent of the existing sponsorships of sporting events by the alcohol industry or the terms and length of these contracts. However, the financial contribution to sport in Ireland by the industry is very significant, with two of the largest national sporting bodies (FAI and IRFU) maintaining that their organisations could not exist without the support currently provided by the alcohol industry.
One view presented to the working group argued for the elimination of alcohol sponsorship of sport to protect the health of young people in particular. The opposing view was that there are huge economic, social and health benefits accruing from sport and that the support provided by the alcohol industry was integral to the survival of mainstream sport.
The working group was not charged with finding a means of reconciling these two opposing views. It is now a matter for the Minister for Health and Children to consider the findings of this report and to use them to inform any decisions that may be made in relation to sports sponsorship by the alcohol industry in Ireland. 
1.     WHO Regional Office for Europe (2009) Evidence for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of interventions to reduce alcohol-related harm. Copenhagen: World Health Organization. p. 70. Available at
2.     Department of Health and Children (2010) Report of the working group on sports sponsorship by the alcohol industry. Dublin: Department of Health and Children. Available at

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