New Zealand Rugby is sticking to its guns in fighting off attempts to limit alcohol sponsorship of the code.

The organisation would not comment today on findings released by a study published by the New Zealand Medical Journal which revealed children who watch sport on television are repeatedly exposed to alcohol brands.

Researchers want the practice banned.

NZR referred the NZ Herald back to its submission on the issue made in a 2014 ministerial review, saying its attitude had not changed since.


Back then, NZR was urged by a group of government-appointed experts to dump key All Blacks sponsor Steinlager and wean the national game off any dependence on booze sponsorship dollars.

The panel, which was chaired by former Kiwis league coach Graham Lowe, advised a significant shake-up of alcohol advertising and sponsorship, including stripping all sporting events, stadiums, teams and television slots of any booze advertising or sponsorship.

At the time, sporting bodies lobbied hard against the moves. Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said it would "catastrophically torpedo" New Zealand sport.

The panel faced strong lobbying against restrictions from a host of sports bodies including NZR and also from local rugby clubs who claimed they relied on liquor funding.
They argued there was no evidence of a causal relationship between sponsorship and advertising and any increasing harm from alcohol.

In his submission, NZR chief executive Steve Tew said a more educational approach was needed, rather than stripping clubs of a vital source of investment, potentially threatening their viability.

The sports bodies appear to have been successful in their bid to stay an alcohol execution.

The Government, who appointed the panel in 2011, agreed and dampened down the findings. But the research released yesterday has cast a fresh spotlight on the issue.

Lowe told the Herald that sports organisations were trying to fight off the inevitable.

"For people to think young people aren't affected and don't log in their memory banks the loyalty factor of seeing so many alcohol ads - you're bloody crazy," Lowe said.

The same issue of how booze advertising and sponsorship impacts young sports fans was discussed at length in the panel's findings three years ago.

Sport's "revered status" among young fans incentivised alcohol brands to align themselves with our top sports and stars, the experts claimed.

"We believe that the current level of exposure of young people to alcohol advertising and sponsorship is unacceptable, and that this exposure can be reduced," the panel said.

At the time of the panel's findings, Justice Minister Amy Adams said the process had raised "more questions than answers", and the panel had admitted it was unable to assess the impact of its proposals.

Doug Sellman, director of the National Addiction Centre, described the Government's response as "cynical".