Ring calls for realism on alcohol sports ban
Minister of State says abolishing sponsorship would make it difficult for sporting organisations to meet commitments
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring: “I would love if we could do without sponsorship but I have to live in the real world.” Photograph: Eric Luke
Minister for Sport Leo Varadkar has received the backing of his department’s Minister of State Michael Ring in resisting moves to pinpoint a date banning alcohol firms from sponsoring sporting events.
Mr Varadkar, whose reservations on the scope of the ban are reported to be shared by some other Ministers, said on Sunday that whatever was done should be evidence-based.
Mr Ring said yesterday that abolishing sponsorship, while also cutting funding because of economic factors, would make it very difficult for sporting organisations to meet their commitments.
“I would love if we could do without sponsorship, but I have to live in the real world,” said Mr Ring, who has responsibility for sport and tourism.
He said that while he agreed in principle with the legislation, sponsorship by alcohol companies was a complex issue which required detailed consideration. “I hope we can reach a compromise along the way,” he added.
The Cabinet is understood to be close to agreement on large elements of the legislation banning sports’ sponsorship, to be known as the Public Health (Alcohol) Act. Sponsorship of big sporting events would be banned from 2020, with new contracts outlawed from 2016.
GAA director general Paraic Duffy said yesterday he supported Mr Varadkar’s view that any action taken should be evidence-based. Mr Duffy said that while the GAA was supportive of moves to address the social damage being caused by alcohol abuse, there was no evidence that curtailing or removing alcohol companies from sponsorship of sports events had an impact.
“That is the key point we made with the IRFU and the FAI in our joint submissions,” he added.
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said he he was very concerned about the impact a sponsorship ban would have on rugby. Sponsorship generates revenues of around €9 million annually and the impact of a ban would be felt from the very top to the very bottom, he said.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio, he added that there was no “white knight” to come over the hill to fill that financial chasm. “At the end of the day, if the Minister has some bright idea on how we replace those revenues, we will be 100 per cent on side with him.”
He said the Department of Health had refused to engage in any meaningful way with sporting organisations on the proposed ban.