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[Sunday Independent] , Hartnett, Bob Small measures in right direction can tackle drink crux. (15 Jul 2012)

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There is no question that Ireland has a storied and often troubled relationship with alcohol. We are known throughout the world as being fond of a jar and at Páirc Uí Chaoimh this afternoon Guinness will be the principal brand on display when the Munster final throws in.

While last week's scenes in the Phoenix Park brought the danger of alcohol into sharp relief, many of those attending or playing sport this weekend will still round off the day with a drink. Wasn't it a central part of the high spirits enjoyed in Poland last month?

Even the ways we use a phrase like that suggest everything will be alright. It's the way it's always been.

The close link between alcohol and sport though is being questioned and challenged as never before, and the reasons for doing so are difficult to argue against. Earlier this year, a public health policy report called for the ending of alcohol companies' sponsorship of sport by 2016. The call did not find great favour among ministers or sports governing bodies but neither did it go away....

There is no easy answer for government, society, sport or indeed alcohol. Or is there? Looking back to Australia, the government there last month introduced a new initiative encouraging sport to 'Be the Influence'. Twelve sports including soccer, swimming, cycling, basketball, hockey and netball have agreed to end all existing and future relationships with alcohol companies. They will, as a result, share an Aus$25m (€20m) pot drawn from tax revenues on certain categories of alcoholic drinks....


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