Scottish public health experts are calling for a ban on alcohol sponsorship in football and rugby as a new study found drink references featured every 15 seconds in a live televised Six Nations rugby match.
Academics analysed the frequency of alcohol marketing in seven sports broadcasts including the Rangers v Celtic Old Firm match shown live on Sky Sports in March 2018 which featured alcohol marketing every 98 seconds.
University researchers examined the official sponsors or partners of football and rugby teams in Scotland, including the top two SPFL divisions and both professional rugby union teams, as well as the Scottish Football Association and Scottish Rugby.
They found alcohol companies represented 7 per cent of the main sponsors or partners in 2018-19 - 15 per cent in rugby union and 4 per cent in football.
The University of Stirling study found that, where present, alcohol sponsorship “uses a variety of marketing activities to ensure that it is highly visible and appears salient to consumers”.
These include kit logos, stadium advertising, limited edition products and players featuring in marketing content.
The academics also analysed the frequency of alcohol marketing in seven sports broadcasts in 2018-19.
On average, an alcohol reference featured around once every 15 seconds in the Six Nations match between Scotland and England played at Murrayfield in 2018. For Scottish Premiership football highlights, it happened every 57 seconds on average, rising to 71 seconds in the Scottish Cup final and 98 seconds in a league match.
Researchers said they attempted to analyse the alcohol marketing references in a game between Scotland’s two professional rugby teams - Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby but were unable to do so due to the high volume.
Ban alcohol sponsorship
Charity Alcohol Focus Scotland and public health experts from Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (Shaap) want the Scottish Government to ban alcohol sponsorship from sport.
Alison Douglas, Alcohol Focus Scotland chief executive, said: “Sport should be clean, it should inspire good health and active participation - to use it as a promotional vehicle for an addictive and health-harming product is unacceptable. The current system of self-regulation is no regulation.”
Shaap director Dr Eric Carlin called on clubs to follow the lead of Scottish women’s football in rejecting alcohol and gambling sponsorship.
The University of Stirling’s Richard Purves said: “Alcohol sponsorship was particularly visible in rugby union, both in terms of the number of sponsorship relations with alcohol companies and how often alcohol marketing references appeared in the television broadcasts analysed.”
A Scottish Rugby spokesperson said: “Sponsorship revenue helps us reinvest record amounts into grassroots rugby, for the betterment of the game and society by encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle through participation.
“Together with our partners, we ensure responsible messages are prevalent throughout our match-days at BT Murrayfield – from the match programme, social media, pitch-side LED and hoardings, as well as big screen and PA announcements.”