Home > Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 2 - Sports sponsorship [Alcohol] [2549/06].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 2 - Sports sponsorship [Alcohol] [2549/06]. (26 Jan 2006)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

2. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he agrees that alcohol sponsorship has no place in sport; his further views on whether legislation must be brought in to remove any option open to sporting organisations regarding alcohol sponsorship; his plans to introduce such legislation. [2549/06]

Mr. O’Donoghue: On 22 September 2004, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children launched the second report of the strategic task force on alcohol, which included representatives of my Department and the Irish Sports Council. The report recommends that national sporting bodies, with high youth participation, develop a proactive strategy to find an alternative to alcohol sponsorship. I support this recommendation, which is in keeping with the provisions of the Irish Sports Council’s Code of Ethics and Good Practice for Children’s Sport in Ireland, to which national governing bodies of sport have subscribed. The development of such a strategy is a matter for the individual national governing bodies of sport. This derives from the recognition that the independence and autonomy of sports organisations, their affiliates and individual clubs, has remained a fundamental principle underpinning successive Governments’ support for Irish sport. In any debate on issues arising in connection with the sponsorship of sport, it is important to retain perspective. Governing bodies and clubs across the spectrum of sports freely acknowledge that sponsorship from the business and commercial sectors provides much needed financial, material and promotional support.

This has the effect of freeing up other resources which can then be invested in the development of the sport, increased participation and improved facilities. I agree, nevertheless, that where alcohol is concerned, great care must be taken by sports organisations to ensure the nature and extent of any sponsorship is proportionate and appropriate to the environment in which sporting activities take place. This is particularly important when it comes to assessing the effect such sponsorship could have on children and young people involved in sport. I am pleased that the three major field sports, the GAA, FAI and IRFU, have moved away from sponsorship by alcohol interests in so far as it relates to their underage activities and competitions. The GAA, in particular, acting in response to its alcohol task force, has recently appointed a full-time alcohol abuse officer, who is developing a strategy in regard to alcohol for the association. Legislation to prevent sport organisations from availing of sponsorship from alcohol interests is neither necessary nor appropriate. I prefer instead to exhort all governing bodies to ensure restraint and good judgment are applied in regard to such sponsorship at all levels of their organisations. In this regard, the recent initiative taken by the GAA serves as an example of a mature and considered response to concerns articulated by its membership. It provides a model which could be followed by other governing bodies in the interests of both sports people and the health and welfare of the wider population.

Mr. Wall: I thank the Minister for his reply. There are two sectors involved in this. One is at national level, which the Minister outlined in regard to the national governing bodies. However, there is also a major problem at grassroots level whereby clubs are sponsored by public houses, inns etc., in their own area. There is an onus on clubs sponsored by such sources, regardless of the sport involved, to have their members return to them following their sporting activities. Members feel obliged to frequent the establishments that give them the most sponsorship. As 25% of deaths on our roads have been related to drink driving problems, it is with the grassroots level of sponsorship I have major concerns.

Will the Minister do something about this? We have had the report from the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children to which the major bodies signed up. However, it has not reached the grassroots level where the major problem exists. I attend many sporting events and people appear to feel obliged to return to the club that sponsors the sport. This creates a problem after such events, because young people travel to the pub and drive home afterwards. I tabled the question to explore whether something could be done about this. Is there funding available to help to alleviate or redirect the clubs from drink related sources of sponsorship?

Mr. O’Donoghue: Everyone will welcome the code of ethics published by the Irish Sports Council and the fact that sponsorship is not allowed in the GAA where people under the age of 21 are concerned. They will also agree that where sponsorship and advertising occurs, it should be appropriate and proportionate. There should not be an over-sell in this context.

The difficulty sports organisations in general experience is that they find it difficult to fund their various sports. I accept that in an ideal world it would be best if alcohol sponsorship in sport could be discontinued. However, clubs and national organisations say that without funding from these sources very often they would not be able to improve participation levels or provide the kind of facilities required in this day and age to enable people to enjoy the sport in which they are involved.

The strategic task force report is important. The interim report published in May 2002, and the second report published in September 2004, are quite useful. It is important that young people do not associate a given sport with alcohol. I exhort all sporting organisations to follow the lead of the GAA where people under the age of 21 are concerned. I call for proportionality and appropriateness in regard to the remainder of drink sponsorship.

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