New Zealand; 21/04/2018; John-Michael Swannix

Experts are calling for alcohol advertising to be banned from sports, but the liquor industry is pushing back, claiming it plays a vital role in supporting sport at every level.

From branding on the players’ jerseys to signage at the stadium, it’s hard to argue exposure to New Zealand’s most popular legal drug isn’t pervasive in sports.

Dr Nicky Jackson from Alcohol Health Watch says the advertising is “a very easy way to get through to a huge number of people”. “It’s about maintaining our drinking culture.”

All of New Zealand’s main professional sporting teams, except for the Breakers, have alcohol sponsors or partners. The All Blacks have had a commercial relationship with Steinlager for more than three decades, and every Super Rugby team has a beer partner. The Warriors are currently sponsored by Woodstock Bourbon, and have had alcohol sponsorship since the club formed in 1995.

The Blackcaps enjoy the investment of Dominion Breweries, who call Tui the official beer of New Zealand Cricket. The Silver Ferns take to the court in partnership with champagne Veuve du Vernay.

Nick Leggett represents the Alcohol Beverages Council, and says the industry plays a vital role in funding sport across all levels in New Zealand.

“This is hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to run sport in New Zealand at all levels, and across all codes, and the alcohol sector can play a part in supporting that and it does so.”

PhD candidate Tim Chambers led a major study into alcohol sponsorship in New Zealand sport, and says the alcohol industry only provides $23 million to sports – of which $14 million is in indirect cash.

Mr Chambers suggests that by raising the tax 5 cents on beer, you could completely remove alcohol sponsorship and fund sports with the replacement revenue.

Dr Jackson believes that, just like tobacco sponsorship, alcohol sponsorship will eventually come to an end. “We’re hearing these myths that it’s going to destroy sport. That hasn’t been the case in relation to tobacco removal of sponsorship – we didn’t see that, the world didn’t end,” she said. “I think we’ll look back in time and say, ‘I can’t believe we had alcohol sponsorship in sport.'”

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