Governing bodies from across Scottish sport have united to warn about the ‘grave’ consequences that a total ban on alcohol sponsorship and advertising could have, both from a financial standpoint and on the nation’s ability to host major events, saying that any ban would have ‘profound social, financial and sporting implications’.

In response to the Scottish Government Consultation on Restricting Alcohol Advertising and Promotion carried out last year, the Scottish Professional Football League, the Scottish Women’s Premier League, the Scottish FA, Scottish Rugby, the R&A, Scottish Golf, Scottish Racing and the British Horseracing Authority issued a joint response outlining their opposition to any blanket ban on commercial partnerships with the drinks industry.

In Herald Sport yesterday, Elinor Jayne, director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), outlined the case for the Scottish Government to follow through on a blanket ban of alcohol sponsorship in sport, but spokespeople for many of the governing bodies listed above have told Herald Sport they would be strongly opposed to any such legislation.

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In their rebuttal to the proposals outlined in the Scottish Government consultation, they argued there is a lack of ‘robust evidence that the presence of alcohol sponsorship in Scottish sport leads to alcohol-related harm’, or that they have seen any ‘evidence-based justification that restrictions on marketing would lead to a reduction in consumption of alcohol.’

Their statement read: “Our commitment is to work with Government, and others, to grow the positive impact of professional sport in Scotland even further.

“We recognise too that Scotland’s professional sports have an important role to play in critical public health agendas.

“We are fully committed to playing our part in supporting the Scottish Government to achieve the national public health outcome of a Scotland which is healthier and more active. And with the popularity and reach of professional sports across Scotland, we recognise our important role in other public health agendas including reducing harmful consumption of alcohol.

“This is a responsibility we take seriously. Within our respective sports, we have been proactive in working with partners and fans to promote responsible drinking, and we know that the majority of sporting fans enjoy alcohol in moderation.”

As well as highlighting the positive role that Scottish sport has played in relaying messages around responsible drinking to their fanbases, governing bodies – particularly the SPFL – are concerned that the removal of revenue from existing alcohol sponsors could even lead to the closure of some football clubs.

“Sponsorship of Scottish sport by alcohol companies and brands accounts for significant and vital revenue,” they said.

“This sponsorship can include the sponsoring of competitions, physical advertising in sports stadia and events, and sponsorship of teams and clubs. It is vital funding that sustains the operation of professional sports competitions and clubs in Scotland, as well as being reinvested in the growth of our respective sports.

“To remove this vital revenue stream, at a time of the most significant economic challenges for a generation, would undeniably have severe financial implications for Scottish professional sport.

“Although sources of sponsorship are diversified across Scottish sport, any prohibition of sports sponsorship could have a pronounced impact on individual sports clubs and competitions which have a greater reliance on sponsorship from alcohol brands and companies.

“For example, operating costs in professional football in Scotland can be high and many football clubs operate modest, if any, profit. Sponsorship is particularly important in this context.

“Depending on any transition period for proscribing sports sponsorship, it would not be unrealistic to expect that some clubs and competitions which are reliant on sponsorship from alcohol brands could cease operating.”

Supporters of a ban point to the example of France, where ‘Loi Envin’ – regulation prohibiting the advertising of alcohol and tobacco products in sport – has been in place since 1991, arguing that sporting bodies and individual clubs continue to thrive regardless with alternative sponsorship sources.

But the counterargument is that the comparison between the nations is not like-for-like.

“Loi Evin was introduced in 1991, four years before rugby became a professional sport,” the response read.

“Given that in a rugby context, French rugby has never been in a position to access alcohol sponsorship in the professional era, it’s hardly a fair-minded comparison to Scotland.

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“It should be noted that in the absence of private sponsorship by alcohol brands, France is the country which devotes the most public money to sport in the EU. All sporting expenses combined, the annual funding for sport amounts to an eye-watering c.€40 billion.”

Another area that critics of a ban argue the nation’s standing would be affected by the outlawing of advertising by alcohol brands is in Scotland’s ability to host major events, such as the European Championships in 2028.

They argue: “A key way in which the reputation and competitiveness of Scottish sport is supported is through participation and hosting of major international sports competitions and events.

“This includes, for example, the participation of Scottish football clubs in the UEFA Champions League and other European competitions, bids to host international football tournaments such as the UEFA European Championships, and the Six Nations Championship. All of these tournaments and competitions have official sponsors which include alcohol brands.

“As far as we are aware, there is no equivalent precedent or international comparison for legislation which seeks to completely prohibit advertising in sport by alcohol brands and companies, as opposed to alcohol products.

“Any prohibition which does apply to alcohol brands by definition, as well as products, would create uncertainty around Scotland’s ability to host major international sporting events where major or official sponsors are alcohol brands.

“This is because commercial sponsorship agreements for major multinational tournaments are negotiated by international sporting bodies and associations, and the complications arising from excluding an existing major sponsor from a tournament would likely be perceived as a major disincentive to host such tournaments in Scotland.

“In practical terms, this could have clear implications for Scotland’s continued participation in the joint UK & Ireland bid to host UEFA Euro Championships in 2028.”