SCOTLAND'S powerful beerocrats strengthened their grip on Scottish

football yesterday as the Scottish Football Association unveiled its

biggest and most controversial sponsorship deal.

After three years in which the Scottish Cup has been used to promote

the health message ''Be all you can be,'' the SFA has been wooed and won

by the big money of Tennent Caledonian brewers.

The #3.25m deal is the largest in the SFA's history, and was enough to

end the 116-year-old independent tradition of the Scottish Cup trophy.

For the next four years Scotland's clubs will compete for the Tennent's

Scottish Cup.

The latest drinks deal suggests a sponsorship beeropoly in the

Scottish game, with the new season throwing up the possibility of

Belhaven's Dundee Utd and McEwan's Rangers meeting in the Skol or

Tennent's cup competitions.

SFA secretary Mr Ernie Walker was strong in his defence of the deal,

simply stating that sport was ''a vehicle for publicity,'' with the

links between football and commerce growing ever stronger. It was not up

to the SFA to become involved in moral arguments.

He added: ''It was all about inducement, let's not be hypocritical.

This is a very substantial sponsorship.''

His ''Make all you can make'' philosophy for the Scottish game was not

criticised, but news of the identity of the latest sponsor was greeted

with dismay by alcohol abuse and health experts.

The British Medical Association warned that alcohol and tobacco

sponsorship only exacerbated Scotland's already poor health record.

In recent years the premier cup competition has been backed by the

Government-financed Scottish Health Education Group, which has used its

''Be all you can be'' slogan and pushed anti-drink and tobacco messages

at cup games.

The Scottish Office admitted last night that SHEG had attempted to

retain the deal, but had simply been outbid. The new package is worth

#350,000 a year more than the previous deal.

A spokesman for SHEG said it was disappointed to lose what had been a

very positive sponsorship which had allowed it to promote the natural

link between football and good health. ''Ours was a non-controversial

sponsorship,'' he added.

The competition finds itself once again immersed in drinks sponsorship

nine years after the disastrous 1980 Scottish Cup final between Celtic

and Rangers, which ended in a riot with mounted police charging across


After that game the sponsors, Youngers' Tartan Special, withdrew their

sponsorship and new legislation later introduced the ban on alcohol in

Scottish grounds which is still in place.

BMA Scottish secretary Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen said last night that a

positive message had been replaced by a negative one.

''Doctors know that sponsorship and advertising of alcohol and tobacco

products does have a negative effect, and does obviously encourage young

people into the habit.''

A spokesman for the Glasgow Industrial Alcoholism Unit described the

deal as ''the opposite of what sponsorship should be about.''

At a Hampden news conference yesterday, SFA president Mr Peter

Gardiner had claimed ''some consensus'' between Tennent Caledonian and

the health group, as both were against the abuse of alcohol. ''Tennent's

are a responsible company who have an excellent track record in football


Tennent's will put #2.5m into the cup competition over four years and

#650,000 into the Tennent's Sixes competition, guaranteeing the future

of the indoor competition until 1993.

Other drinks deals in football are held by whisky giants Whyte and

Mackay, who back Scotland games and the West of Scotland Junior cup, and

Scottish and Newcastle brewers, who back the Tartan Special Cup in the

Junior game.

However, while drinks sponsorship continues to increase, there seems

no prospect of fans being allowed to drink at games.

Earlier this month, the SFA said a proposal by the Football

Association to lift the ban on alcohol sales inside English football

grounds in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster would not be

contemplated in Scotland.

At the time, Mr Walker said: ''I am afraid you would be treated with

scorn in Scotland if you put forward that proposal here.''

Meanwhile, the deal is likely to be good news for the coffers of

Scotland's big clubs. The sponsorship money will be channelled into the

clubs, and they can also expect bigger bonus payments in each round.

The brewers intended to introduce an incentive package for the clubs

with rewards for goal scoring and special merit awards which will be

announced before the cup competition kicks off on December 9.

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