The SNP’s controversial plans to crack down on alcohol advertising have “extremely serious” consequences for the future of Scottish football, sport’s governing bodies in Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish government have warned.
The Scottish Football Association (SFA) and the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) have warned that cutting the revenue stream from cash-strapped clubs will have “enormous implications”.
They also raised the possibility that Scottish clubs would not be allowed to participate in European competitions, with brewing giant Heineken being one of the main sponsors of the Champions League.
Scotland could be banned from hosting
The move could also potentially prevent Scotland from hosting major football and sports competitions, with the SFA saying that at such events “alcohol partnerships are an integral part of a diverse sponsorship portfolio”.
The warning came as it emerged beer will no longer be available to fans around the stadiums for the World Cup, which kicks off on Sunday, after Fifa were forced into an embarrassing U-turn by leaders Qatar’s ultra-conservatives.
Under Scottish Government proposals released this week, the branding of alcohol in stadiums and on merchandise, including kits and replica kits, would be banned. Player endorsements of drink brands could also be banned.
Advertisements for drinks could also be banned at events such as Six Nations rugby and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, along with billboards, buses and taxis.
A Scottish Government consultation also suggested banning alcohol advertising in newspapers and magazines, and the introduction of new rules requiring shops to hide alcohol from customers.
‘Limited’ evidence of impact of alcohol ads
The proposals were unveiled despite the Scottish government saying there is “limited” evidence of the impact of alcohol advertising on the adult population.
Ministers claimed that if children saw alcohol adverts and products, they could become problem drinkers later in life. Activists have claimed the move could also protect recovering alcoholics.
But around 40% of Scottish football clubs are sponsored by an alcohol product or distributor, while the three rugby organizations studied were also sponsored by beverage producers.
Neil Doncaster, chief executive of the SPFL, highlighted the “valuable financial contribution” drinks companies make to Scottish football, describing it as “hugely important to the well-being of our sport”.
He said: “Cutting this source of revenue, at a time when we are facing the greatest economic challenges in a generation, could have huge implications for clubs and Scottish sport in general.”
Banned from the Champions League
Referring to the possibility of clubs being banned from the Champions League and Europa League, he said: “If the government implements a general ban on alcohol advertising in Scottish football stadiums, there could be huge consequences for all Scottish clubs playing in Europe, where brewers such as Heineken are central to the UEFA family of sponsors.
Mr Doncaster said the SPFL would “take the time to consider these proposals in much more detail”, but added: “Even at an initial stage, it is clear that the sporting, social and financial implications could be extremely serious. .”
Ian Maxwell, the chairman of the SFA, has pointed out that football is already “restricted” by laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol on the pitch.
He said: “As a result, we cannot control consumption levels that take place outside of the stadium bowl and therefore cannot be part of a data-driven solution.”
Mr Maxwell said the governing body’s response to the consultation “would highlight the consequences of any legislation being imposed, not only financially, but in potentially being barred from bidding for major football events, as well as other world-class international sporting events where alcohol partnerships are an integral part of a diverse sponsorship portfolio”.
A Scottish Rugby Union spokesman said the body was “monitoring the situation closely” and “welcomed the upcoming consultation process to assess developments”.
The Portman Group, which regulates alcohol promotion in the UK, called the proposals “grossly disproportionate” and warned they would hinder consumers’ ability to make informed choices.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Alcohol-related harm is one of the most pressing public health challenges facing us in Scotland. On average, 700 people are hospitalized and 24 people die each week from diseases caused by alcohol consumption.
“The Minister of Public Health will meet with key stakeholders, including the alcohol and advertising industries and representatives of the sports sector, during the consultation period, to hear from them directly.
. ban advertising on alcohol will have serious consequences warn the bosses football scottish