For a sports lover, there can be nothing as exciting as watching your team play in a major competition. Unfortunately this year’s 6 Nations rugby championship, along with many other high-profile event have been suspended in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. This means there will be even more excitement next time we are able to enjoy international competitions again. But could advertising be encouraging dangerous levels of drinking?
The annual internationals featuring all UK home nations, alongside France and Italy will hopefully be with us as soon as it’s safe. Teams play each other home and away, in the hope of being named champions, and this really wasn’t possibly given the risks and travel restrictions. Once we continue, all the nations will again battle to follow Wales, the championship holders, who won in 2019.
It is not unusual for rugby fans to drink a beer when watching the match at home, or meet up with friends at the pub. There has been a long-time connection with sport and alcohol. But some feel something should be done to stop what many consider the constant onslaught of alcohol-based images during sporting events.
Proposed ban on alcohol advertising in sport.
Certain health groups are demanding a total ban on alcohol sponsorship in sport in Scotland. They feel it may encourage drinking and have a negative effect on the health of children and young people if nothing is done.
The charity organisations Alcohol Focus Scotland and Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems believe a ban should be a part of fuller, more vigorous restrictions, regulating alcohol advertising in this country.
They are asking for the Scottish Government to take action and prohibit all alcohol sponsorship in sport. This particularly affects the Six Nations, an event with a close association with the drinks industry. The tournament is currently known as the Guinness Six Nations and Whisky adverts are a familiar sight at grounds.
This was brought into focus when the aforementioned health charities asked the Institute for Social Marketing and Health, at Stirling University to carry out a study, where it was revealed, during a televised Six Nations match, there was an alcohol marketing reference every 15 seconds.
Alcohol Advertising commonplace in sport
It is not restricted to rugby union; during a Scottish Premier League football game, there was an alcohol advertising image every minute and a half.
However, it was revealed less than one in ten, companies sponsoring sporting events is in the drinks industry. 4% of football sponsors in Scotland are alcohol firms, while they make up 15% of rugby sponsors.
Several football clubs in Scotland have the names of alcoholic drinks on their shirts. For example, both Old Firm sides, Celtic and Rangers, as well as Hibernian, have been sponsored by drinks companies. Scottish rugby clubs like Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby are also sponsored by drinks firms.
There is no doubt of the prevalence of alcohol imagery during the Six Nations, where the name of the tournament sponsor, Guinness, is painted onto the centre of the pitch during the game.
The charities behind the study suggest it is effective advertising, and can reach more people, if a drinks company sponsors a sporting competition or a football or rugby club. Campaigners believe this contributes to teenagers or young people consuming alcohol to excess. In some cases it can lead to dangerous binge drinking.
Health Groups call for Government to introduce Laws
Health groups feel the Scottish government must implement stringent, far-reaching constraints on alcohol sponsorship in sports. This would help reduce the influence advertising has on drinking habits at events and beyond. However, many disagree, and dispute the claim sports advertising encourages drinking.
But, the findings of the study show just how commonplace alcohol advertising in sports has become in this country. It also examined possible negative effects and what could be done about them. Now many are calling for drink company sponsorship to be banned altogether. Scottish Women’s Football has already taken the step of banning it. Health groups are hoping the men’s game, as well as rugby, will eventually follow suit.
We are in uncertain times for sporting events but often having a drink adds to enjoyment of the game. It is almost a part of the culture, and what it means to be a sports fan.
But, could it be the time to change the habit of a lifetime, and kick alcohol advertising out of the game? Some health charities certainly think so.