Sports hit back at advertising rule proposals

New Zealand's biggest sports teams including the All Blacks, the New Zealand Warriors and the Black Caps say proposed changes to alcohol sponsorship and advertising would threaten the sustainability of their codes at nearly every level.

The biggest impact would be on grassroots clubs which depended heavily on funding from liquor companies, sporting bodies said after the release of the Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship's report yesterday.

The forum, established by the Government in February, made a series of recommendations including a long-term goal of completely banning alcohol sponsorship in sport and the advertising of beer, wine and spirits in relation to sports -- at stadiums, on TV, in bus stops and other places likely to be seen by young people.

The proposals were based on findings linking young peoples' exposure to alcohol promotions with increased consumption and the taking up of drinking at a younger age. The report's authors, who included league great Graham Lowe, concluded that the total cost of alcohol-related harm in this country was "enough to justify further restrictions on alcohol advertising and sponsorship".

Warriors managing director Jim Doyle said if the recommendations were accepted it would mark a "sea change" in league and other sports, especially at a time when corporate sponsorship was becoming scarcer.

The Warriors' deals with Independent Liquor and Sileni wines would be affected by the proposals.

Mr Doyle said there would be several fishhooks. Because his team played in an Australian competition the Warriors would be at a disadvantage because they would be the only team in the NRL which could not rely on alcohol-related funding.

NZ Cricket, which is backed by Dominion Breweries and Pernod Ricard, and the All Blacks, which has long had links with Steinlager, expressed similar concerns.

The Heineken Open and Tui's "Catch a Million" contest were also cited as among those affected.

Public health researchers pointed out to the forum that tobacco sponsorship was also entrenched in New Zealand but clubs managed to wean themselves off it over time.

The Government immediately talked down the prospect of changes.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said the forum had been unable to quantify the full effect of their proposals, and she had asked for further work from officials to see if any of the recommendations would be feasible.

The forum's report acknowledged the risks to sport and said alternative funding plans would be needed.

"Given the revered status of sport and sporting heroes in New Zealand, the forum sees implicit association between alcohol consumption and sport as unacceptable and too prevalent to leave unattended."

Proposed gambling changes were watered down last year after a huge backlash from sporting groups worried about loss of funding.

By Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald

Add a Comment