Health leaders call for ban on alcohol firms sponsoring sports clubs and events

Health campaigners fear it could fuel underage drinking

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The Independent Online

Health leaders are calling for alcohol sponsorship in sport to be banned over fears it could fuel underage drinking.

Medical leaders, public health campaigners and health charities signed a letter to The Guardian calling on for an end to the “outrageous” practice of alcohol sponsorship in sport.

The signatories urged the Government to "listen to the people rather than to big business".  

"Self-regulation of alcohol advertising isn't working when it allows drink brands to dominate sporting events that attract children as well as adults, creating automatic associations between alcohol brands and sport that are cumulative, unconscious and built up over years," the letter stated.

This year's World Cup featured one example of alcohol advertising for each minute of football, the letter's signatories said.

They said people would consider it "outrageous" if tobacco firms became brand ambassadors for big football teams, and questioned the acceptability of drinks advertising in comparison.

The call for the ban comes as thousands across the UK prepare to watch sporting events on Boxing Day, where alcoholic drinks are often promoted.

Its signatories claimed alcohol sponsorship of sport has become “as commonplace as advertising for cereal or soap powder”.

The letter adds: “Let’s take action to protect our children by ensuring that the sports we watch promote healthy lifestyles and inspire participation, not a drinking culture. Let’s make alcohol sports sponsorship a thing of the past.”

A spokeswoman for the Portman group, which represents alcohol producers, told The Guardian: "Calling for a ban does not reflect the reality of what is happening in the UK, where official government statistics show that rates of binge drinking among 16- to 24-year-olds are in significant decline and the number of children even trying alcohol is at a record low."

She added that alcohol sponsorship contributed significantly to the country's economy.