Alcohol ad ban costly for rugby

By Vomle Springford

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MAY DISAPPEAR: Signs like the Tui one seen (right) in the background at Memorial Park, Masterton, may soon be banned.
MAY DISAPPEAR: Signs like the Tui one seen (right) in the background at Memorial Park, Masterton, may soon be banned.

Tougher controls on alcohol advertising and sponsorship could close some rugby clubs in Wairarapa, warns Tony Hargood, chief executive of Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union.

After liquor law changes last year, the Government established a ministerial forum to consider whether more restrictions on alcohol marketing are needed to reduce alcohol-related harm.

In a submission to the forum, Mr Hargood said if revenue from sponsors was reduced it would be difficult to fill the financial hole left.

"The probable result would be that some clubs would have to fold."

WBRU has several sponsors but Tui Brewery is a major sponsor and sponsors many of the clubs, some of which are also supported by bars and restaurants.

Mr Hargood said alcohol was a traditional part of a club's social activity but bar takings had drastically reduced to less than half the figure they were 10 years ago.

"Bar takings make up between 40 to 50 percent of club revenue, although for WBRU this figure stands at just four percent."

He said alcohol related issues at clubs had fallen to "negligible levels" because of a tougher stance on supply and awareness around drink driving and other alcohol related harm.

There was a total separation of alcohol sponsorship of senior teams and the independent JAB childrens' teams.

Mr Hargood said there was no "hard evidence" that sponsorship contributed to alcohol harm and what happened in sports was generally a reflection of New Zealand's drinking culture.

But health industry workers dealing with the effects said, in submissions, it drove consumption and therefore harm.

They said alcohol companies sought to normalise and associate their products, which can have negative health effects, with the credibility of positive pursuits, like sport.

Nadia Freeman, public health adviser for Regional Public Health, which serves Wairarapa, said there was evidence alcohol marketing sped up the onset of drinking in young people and encouraged them to consume more.

"The longer sponsorship is present as a normal facet of events, sports, arts and activities, the longer it will continue to support the current drinking culture."

She said RPH recommended the Health Promotion Agency, fund events and organisations who have become reliant on financial support from the liquor industry.

DB Breweries, which owns Tui, made a submission against more controls saying it would impact the economy and reduce support for sporting, cultural and musical events and teams.

Out of a total of 241 submitters, 177 supported further restrictions and 64 did not.

The forum, chaired by Graham Lowe, a businessman and former rugby league coach and administrator, will report to the Minister of Justice and Associate Minister of Health later this year.

If taken up, laws would be created to restrict advertising and sponsorship including the Tui logo which can be seen on park billboards, flags, posts and on players' shorts. No alcohol advertising would be allowed in any media, other than advertising the characteristics of the beverage, the manner of its production and price.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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