Armchair fans are constantly exposed to alcohol advertising during televised rugby and football matches in Scotland, according to new research.
Booze branding was visible every 15 seconds during coverage of the Six Nations match between Scotland v England and every 71 seconds during the Scottish Cup final, the study found.
Public health experts are now calling for new restrictions on alcohol sponsorship in sport, which the Scottish Government said it was considering.
Booze branding was visible on pitchside hoardings, strip sponsorship and in social media activity, product endorsement from players and competition marketing in the build-up to games, according to the research by the Institute for Social Marketing and Health at Stirling University.
For Scottish Premiership football highlights on TV, it was seen every 57 seconds on average, falling to 98 seconds in a live match.
Researchers said they couldn’t analyse a game between Scotland’s two professional rugby teams – Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby – because there was so much alcohol promotion.
They also examined the official sponsors or partners of football and rugby teams in Scotland, including the top two SPFL divisions and both pro rugby teams, as well as the Scottish FA and Scottish Rugby.
They found alcohol companies represented 7% of the main sponsors or partners in 2018-19 – 15% in rugby union and 4% in football.
Alcohol Focus Scotland and Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems said exposure to alcohol marketing was linked to increased consumption.
Dr Richard Purves, from the Institute, said: “This new research provides, for the first time, insight into the extent, nature, and frequency of alcohol sponsorship within two of Scotland’s most popular spectator sports, football and rugby union.
“Alcohol sponsorship was particularly visible in rugby union, both in terms of the number of sponsorship relations with alcohol companies and how often alcohol marketing references appeared in the television broadcasts analysed.
“For football, alcohol sponsorship appeared to be more prevalent amongst larger or more successful teams, for example those playing at the top-level, compared to clubs which offered fewer opportunities for national and international exposure, such as those in the lower leagues.”
Government statistics show that one in four Scots drinks more than advised by the chief medical officer, with alcohol responsible for almost 4000 deaths and more than 30,000 hospital admissions every year.
Charity Alcohol Focus Scotland and public health experts from Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (Shaap) want the Scottish Government to ban alcohol sponsorship from sport.
Alison Douglas, Alcohol Focus Scotland chief executive, said: “Sport should be clean – it should inspire good health and active participation – and to use it as a promotional vehicle for an addictive and health-harming product is simply unacceptable.
“The current system of self-regulation is no regulation.
“It is failing to protect people – especially our children and other vulnerable people. The Scottish Government needs to act.”
Shaap director Dr Eric Carlin called on clubs to follow the lead of Scottish women’s football in rejecting alcohol and gambling sponsorship.
The University of Stirling’s Richard Purves said: “Alcohol sponsorship was particularly visible in rugby union, both in terms of the number of sponsorship relations with alcohol companies and how often alcohol marketing references appeared in the television broadcasts analysed.
“For football, alcohol sponsorship appeared to be more prevalent amongst larger or more successful teams, for example, those playing at the top level, compared to clubs which offered fewer opportunities for national and international exposure, such as those in the lower leagues.”
Sports minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “We welcome all emerging research on alcohol marketing in Scotland.
“We want to go further to protect our children and young people from alcohol harms and that is why I intend this year to consult on potential mandatory restrictions on alcohol marketing and advertising.
“Scotland will be the first of the UK nations to do so.”
A Scottish Rugby spokesman said: “Sponsorship revenue attracted to the elite level of the sport helps us reinvest record amounts into the grassroots game, for the betterment of the game and society moreover by encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle through participation.
“Together with our partners, we ensure responsible messages are prevalent throughout our match days at BT Murrayfield – from the match programme, social media posts, pitch-side LED and advertising hoardings, as well as big screen and PA announcements.”