28 March 2021. From the Sunday Times.
Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) said children were especially susceptible to advertising and called for robust restrictions to be considered by the next Scottish government after May’s Holyrood elections.
Ministers have faced pressure to take action for several years amid claims that alcohol branding in sport sends the wrong message to fans and is partly to blame for alcohol-related deaths. A consultation on alcohol sponsorship pledged by Joe FitzPatrick, the former sports minister, in March last year did not happen.
Last week Tennent’s Lager declared its continuing support for Scotland’s national football teams in a tweet that read: “It’s said hope is a passion for the possible, and as Scotland national team supporters, we have a passion all of our own. Tennent’s is proud to announce we’re backing the @ScotlandNT men’s A squad and women’s national team once again.” The brand also supports Scottish Rugby, which is the governing body for rugby union, Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby. In “sharp contrast”, said Shaap, Scottish Women’s Football had shown leadership by rejecting alcohol and gambling sponsorship last year.
“It’s time for others to follow their lead and protect their fans and players,” said the body’s interim director, Lindsay Paterson. “Alcohol companies have large sums available for sponsorship and it is understandable but disappointing that Scotland’s national teams have accepted this sponsorship.”
Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, chairman of Shaap, said: “We are particularly concerned about the adverse effect of alcohol sports sponsorship on children. It encourages children and young people to associate the sports they love with alcohol. The Scottish government has stated that it puts children and families at the heart of all its policies. We encourage the next Scottish government to introduce comprehensive and robust restrictions on alcohol sport sponsorship.”
A study published last year by Stirling University found that advertising for alcoholic drinks features every 15 seconds at some high-level fixtures. Researchers found 7 per cent of the main official sponsors or partners of Scottish football and rugby teams in 2018-19 were companies promoting alcoholic drinks. While the number of deaths caused by alcohol misuse in Scotland fell by 10 per cent in 2019, 1,020 deaths were linked to alcohol abuse.
Kenny Gray, managing director at Tennent Caledonian, said there was no evidence that restricting alcohol sponsorship in sport “would in any way help to tackle unhealthy relationships with alcohol by the minority who may abuse it”. On the contrary, he warned, significant support of Scottish sport and culture would be lost if restrictions were to be put in place.
He said: “Tennent’s has a strong track record of taking meaningful action in encouraging responsible drinking.” Gray added: “In the past year alone we have launched three no and low-alcohol variants for those looking to moderate their alcohol intake and regularly feature these brands within our sports sponsorship properties.”
The Scottish FA said that Tennent’s was the “original supporter” of Scottish football and had been an integral part of the game dating back to 1974. “Over the years they have made a positive impact at all levels of the sport, and we look forward to building on that together in the years to come,” it said.