Varadkar resists drink firm sports ban date

Minister is resisting moves to pinpoint proposed alcohol sponsorship ban

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar is resisting moves to pinpoint a date by which drink firms should be banned from sponsoring big sporting events in a Government clampdown on the promotion of alcohol.

The proposed sponsorship ban comes alongside new advertising restrictions, a minimum price on alcohol to prevent ultra-cheap off-trade sales and the separation of shop space in which drink is sold from other parts of a premises.

The new measures are set out in a memorandum sent to the Cabinet by Minister of State for Health Alex White.

The circulation of the memo follows months of haggling in the Coalition, with Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte, Minster for Arts Jimmy Deenihan and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney expressing reservations about various elements of the initial proposal.


Ministers are now said to be close to agreement on large elements of the legislation, to be known as the Public Health (Alcohol) Act, but consensus remains elusive on the scope of the sports sponsorship ban.

Mr Varadkar is said to be concerned that the sponsorhip ban would curtail the revenues of large sporting organisations that rely on sponsorship from drink firms.

The memo suggests the ban would be limited to major sporting events, meaning the sponsorship of local events could continue. It would not apply to arts and cultural events.

The current plan is for the sponsorship of big sporting events to be banned from 2020, with new contracts outlawed from 2016.

Some Government figures had sought an earlier ban. However, Mr Varadkar is understood to have argued against specifying any particular date for the ban on the basis that sporting organisations should first find revenues to replace their income from alcohol sponsorship.

“The whole issue of alcohol sponsorship is quite complicated. I think whatever is done should be evidence-based,” Mr Varadkar said yesterday on RTÉ television.

With talks now at a sensitive stage within the Government, one option under discussion is to divert revenues from any new tax on high-sugar soft drinks and alcopops to sporting organisations. Further uncertainty surrounds the formal definition of a major sporting event.

In Mr White's proposal, the outdoor advertising of alcohol including on hoardings would be banned from 2016.

However, questions have been raised over the precise definition of outdoor advertising.

In relation to television advertising, the talks currently centre on the adoption of a watershed before which alcohol could not be advertised.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times