Minister says sports sponsorship ban issue may be re-examined

Government may consider banning drink companies from funding sport in the future

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has announced the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which introduces a minimum price for alcohol. He says he will review the new law in three years. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has announced the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which introduces a minimum price for alcohol. He says he will review the new law in three years. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has insisted the Government may re-examine banning sports sponsorship in the future, even though it backed away from including a ban in legislation that will be passed before the election.

In the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, the Government will introduce a 10 cent per gram of alcohol minimum price for alcohol – which will push the price of the cheapest bottle of wine available in an off-licence to €7.60.

Cheap drink promotions will be banned, while “happy hours” will be policed. Health warnings and calorie labelling will become mandatory, along with better public information in pubs and off-licences.

Sports grounds

However, Mr Varadkar said the law will be reviewed in three years.

“It is one we will come back to. Ideally it would be one that is done on a transnational, European basis but we can’t always wait for the rest of the world to do these things.”

Anticipating opposition from the drinks industry and sports bodies, he said: “I would hope the sports and drinks industry embrace this and see the common sense behind it. But if we [are opposed] we will be prepared for it and we will fight it.”

A bid by the Scottish government to set a minimum alcohol price received a setback last September when the European Court of Justice issued a preliminary judgment saying that it could be discriminatory and could also breach free trade rules. A final ruling is due in months.

Close friend

The legislation was broadly welcomed. The Vintners Federation of Ireland called for minimum pricing as quickly as possible, since it will cut the advantage enjoyed by supermarkets.

The drinks industry warned it will hurt Ireland’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid.

However, the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland said the advertising curbs are “draconian” and that sports funding will be “hugely diminished”. Federation director Ross Mac Mathúna said that some shoppers will travel to Northern Ireland to buy cheap drinks.