Scottish Government urged to 'call time' on sports alcohol advertising

Only Belgium has a higher proportion on alcohol advertising than Scotland.

Scottish Government urged to ‘call time’ on sports alcohol advertising in football iStock

Calls have been made by former first minister Henry McLeish and public health experts to call time on alcohol advertising in sports after research showed Scotland has more such ads in football than most European leagues.

The Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) group found that only Belgium has a higher proportion on alcohol advertising than Scotland, with half of the country’s premiership teams having at least one alcohol company as a main sponsor or partner.

SHAAP chairman, Dr Alastair MacGilchrist said it is time to ban such sponsorship as the organisation launched its Calling Time campaign.

McLeish, an avid football fan, said the “very special and unique” commitment shown by supporters to their clubs is “being capitalised on by the alcohol industry”.

He added: “We must find a better way to finance Scottish football, finding sponsors with values that align with sports and community, and that’s why I support today’s call for a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sports.”

Dr MacGilchrist urged the Scottish Government to “break the bond between alcohol and sport by banning alcohol sponsorship of sport in order to protect the health of people in Scotland”.

SHAAP said sport sponsorship provides alcohol companies with a prominent and highly attractive method of reaching a large audience.

The public health group said that it could influence how much and how often people drink.

In the research, carried out by the University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing and Health, it found 6.4% of sponsorship in Scottish football is from the alcohol industry, far higher than the 2.6% average across all 10 countries investigated.

SHAAP said countries with laws restricting alcohol marketing and sponsorship have comparatively less alcohol sponsorship in their top flight clubs.

Currently in Scotland and the rest of the UK, alcohol marketing and sport sponsorship is self-regulated.

The Scottish Government is set to consult on plans to restrict alcohol marketing.

Tom Bennett, of the Scottish Recovery Consortium, said self-regulation is not working.

“Sponsorship is triggering and makes us drink – and it’s extremely effective – that’s why the industry invests so much money in it,” he said.

“Sports sponsorship sends completely the wrong message, especially to our children, that healthy activity is associated with alcohol.

“It’s completely unacceptable that people are bombarded with alcohol sponsorship when attending their favourite sports events.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We would encourage sporting organisations to diversify sponsorship away from the alcohol industry because it encourages young people to drink alcohol and can have a detrimental impact on those in recovery from problem drinking.

“We will shortly issue a public consultation setting out potential restrictions on alcohol advertising and promotion in Scotland.”

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