Scottish football could face “significant consequences” from a potential government ban on alcohol adverts in sport.
The game’s governing bodies have warned that financial implications could be “extremely grave” with long-held sponsorships gone and chances of hosting major competitions or finals lost.
The warnings come as the Scottish Government begins its consultation of Restricting Alcohol Advertising and Promotion.
The SFA and SPFL will both contribute to the consultation process, and say they will encourage clubs, other sporting and event bodies, and supporters to do likewise to ensure “the findings are based on fact and include the potential multi-million-pound cost to the national game and the entertainment industry as a whole.”
It is also feared that any such ban could hamper any future bids to host major events such as the European Championships and Champions League finals.
Football’s leading figures are instead calling for all sports to unite to reinforce the positive steps undertaken to ensure a responsible approach to alcohol consumption.
Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA Chief Executive, has cited the 40-year alcohol ban within stadiums as he reitatered the SFA’s support of responsible drinking campaigns.
He said: “Scottish football is already restricted by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, which for more than 40 years has prohibited the sale of alcohol within football grounds. As a consequence, we cannot control consumption levels that take place outside of the stadium bowl and thus cannot be part of a data-led solution.
“We will contribute to the consultation to ensure a fact-based approach and to highlight the consequences of any legislation being imposed, not just financially, but in potentially being precluded from bidding for major football events, as well as other world-class, international sporting events where alcohol partnerships are an integral part of a diverse sponsorship portfolio.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the national game remains supportive of responsible drinking campaigns, especially aimed at harmful drinkers, and will continue to use the power of football to promote that responsibility for the benefit of all concerned.”
Neil Doncaster, SPFL chief executive, said: “We will take time to consider these proposals in far greater detail and respond in due course, but even at an initial stage, it is clear that the sporting, social and financial implications could be extremely grave.
“Sport worldwide depends to a very great degree on sponsorship, and drinks companies have a long and supportive history in the Scottish game. Their valuable financial contribution is hugely important to the wellbeing of our sport and its ability to support a range of social benefits. To remove that revenue stream, at a time when we are experiencing the most significant economic challenges for a generation, could have huge implications for clubs and Scottish sport more generally.”
“Over recent years, Scottish football has made enormous strides, leading the charge in promoting responsible drinking, which should not be regarded as an inherent evil, but something that the vast majority of the adult population enjoy in moderation.
“That said, the Scottish Government’s initial proposals raise a number of very profound questions. To consider just one example, if the government enforces a blanket ban on alcohol advertising in Scottish football stadia, there could be enormous consequences for all Scottish clubs playing in Europe, where brewers such as Heineken are at the centre of UEFA’s family of sponsors.”
The plans could see alcohol advertising banned from sports events, billboards and buses.
A consultation on restricting alcohol advertising suggests banning sponsorship arrangements for clubs and organisations to create a more “family-friendly” environment.
The government said alcohol advertising is seen by large numbers of children and is linked to problematic drinking later in life.
One option being considered is banning alcohol-branded sports merchandise, including on replica kits.
It could also prohibit alcohol adverts on pitch-side hoardings and stop players and managers from appearing in adverts online or on TV.
Public health minister Maree Todd said: “There is clear evidence that adverts which glamorise drinking can encourage young people to drink alcohol and have a detrimental impact on those in recovery from problem alcohol use.
“We are making progress already, with our minimum unit pricing reducing alcohol sales in the off-trade, but with 1,245 alcohol-related deaths last year we know that more needs to be done if we are to tackle Scotland’s problematic relationship with alcohol.
“This consultation is an important step in doing that, and I am extremely grateful for the young voices who have helped us get this far.”
The consultation will close on March 9 next year.