June 18 2024; The National; By Graeme Senior Sports Writer

Glen’s Vodka are just one of the alcohol brands who have commercial ties to Scottish football. (Image: SNS)

Scottish football fans are increasingly uncomfortable about their clubs accepting revenue from alcohol brands, a survey of supporters has found.

Supporters Direct Scotland, in partnership with SHAAP (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems), commissioned four focus groups across a wide age range with representation across the top four divisions to discuss the challenges that fans feel are facing the Scottish game.

Chief amongst those were concerns over the leadership at the top of Scottish football, poor television deals selling the game north of the border short, and financial pressures being placed upon clubs.

READ MORE: Government should ban alcohol advertising in football

Despite concerns about the sustainability of their clubs though, fans are also becoming increasingly worried about the impact of alcohol and gambling sponsorship on young supporters. The SPFL currently have commercial deals in place with Glen’s Vodka and have recently announced bookmaker William Hill as their main sponsor.

That runs contrary to the wishes of the fans, according to director of SHAAP, Elinor Jayne, who says that while alcohol has long been embedded into the culture of football, the survey shows that opinions are hardening against such sponsors being part of the landscape of the Scottish game.

“Scottish football fans are clearly concerned about the sport’s promotion of alcohol via sponsorship and understand the influence of alcohol marketing and how valuable it is to the brands that are associated with the big clubs and competitions,” Jayne said.

“There seems to be particular concern about the impact of sponsorship on children and young people, and given what we now know about exposure to marketing and consequences for consuming alcohol harmfully, this concern is well-founded.

“Alcohol sponsorship has been a part of football in Scotland for so long that it’s completely normalised, but even so, the view of many fans seems to be that on balance, alternative sources of revenue need to be found. Indeed, many feel this is an inevitable journey that football – and sport more generally – is now on.”

Advocates of alcohol sponsorship contend that without the revenue from these companies, clubs -who are already facing a challenging marketplace – would struggle to attract alternative sponsors that could plug that financial shortfall.

Jayne acknowledges that argument, but points to examples such as Heart of Midlothian – who say they have attracted alternative sponsors simply by refusing to allow those they deem potentially ‘harmful’ to their supporters on their shirts – as evidence that it is possible to find other potential backers.

She also advocates a gradual phasing out of alcohol sponsorship rather than an immediate ban, following the template of the ban on tobacco advertising in sport in the UK, so that clubs are afforded the time to source potential alternatives.

“The SPFL and clubs are reluctant to share how much of their income comes from the alcohol industry, so it is difficult to assess whether moving away from alcohol sponsorship would cause any major difficulties,” she said.

“However, in the absence of this information we would urge a gradual approach so that clubs and governing bodies – and the wider sporting world in Scotland – are given time to find alternatives, just as when tobacco sponsorship was ended many years ago.

READ MORE: Sport bodies unite to oppose alcohol advertising ban



Post Navigation