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Call for ban on alcohol ads in Scottish sports

A health group is calling for a ban on alcohol sponsorship in sports in Scotland after it discovered half of the country’s premiership teams have at least one alcohol partner.

Glen's Vodka
Glen’s Vodka became a partner of the Scottish Professional Football League in 2020

A new report, commissioned by alcohol body the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (Shaap) and carried out by the University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing and Health, assessed the extent of alcohol sponsorship in the top tier of men’s professional football across 10 European nations.

The study evaluated how different levels of restriction on alcohol marketing affected the sponsorship arrangements of football clubs in these countries.

It found that Scotland had the second highest proportion of alcohol industry sponsors after Belgium, at 6.4% in Scotland compared to 2.6% across all the countries studied.

Of the 12 Scottish Premiership football teams, six have at least one alcohol industry main sponsor or partner, the report noted.

As such, Shaap has created a new campaign, Calling Time, to urge the Scottish government to ban alcohol sponsorship of sports in the country.

Alcohol marketing and sport sponsorship is self-regulated in the UK.

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, chair of Shaap, said: “Doctors and the entire healthcare team see the impact of alcohol on people’s health, day in, day out. This is not surprising given how present alcohol products and alcohol marketing are in our everyday lives and the fact that the alcohol industry is allowed to sponsor our sports teams and events – which should be about health, participation and community. That is why we are being joined by others in our call to the Scottish government to ban alcohol sponsorship in sports.”

The former first minister of Scotland, Henry McLeish, also added his support to Shaap’s campaign.

He said: “This research shows that Scottish Premiership clubs have a comparatively lower number of sponsors that our European counterparts, and within this we have a higher proportion of alcohol sponsors.

“We must find a better way to finance Scottish football, finding sponsors with values that align with sports and community and that’s why I support today’s call for a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sports.”

Portman Group response

Matt Lambert, CEO of the UK’s alcohol watchdog the Portman Group, said: “Shaap’s report shows that out of the 7,807 main sponsors identified, only 6.4% are alcohol-related in Scotland and 5.5% in England.

“It is not surprising that alcohol companies seek to sponsor the food and drink outlets in stadiums, which is why we assume that the report identified 72.5% of football teams having at least one alcohol-related sponsor/partner. This is to encourage consumers to choose their brand, rather than seeking to expand a market.

“The Portman Group has regulated alcohol marketing since 2003. We have a Code that ensures children are protected from alcohol marketing at sports, music and cultural events and that marketing is appropriate. This is an approach that we know works, with many producers using their brands to showcase responsibility messages at major events.

“Equally, there is a wider value in alcohol advertising and sponsorship funding for communities, business, and sports. We know that there has been an increase in advertising spend over the past decade in Scotland, while at the same time there has been a considerable fall in alcohol-related harms and especially children’s drinking.”

Glen’s Vodka, which recently received its first major brand refresh in almost 20 years, secured a partnership with the Scottish Professional Football League in 2020.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation called for tighter regulations on alcohol advertising, however industry bodies hit back at the suggestion.

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