Why Scottish sport may wish to moderate its alcohol marketing habit – leader comment

New research finds viewers of football and rugby matches are repeatedly exposed to alcohol marketing.

Stuart Hogg, wearing a Scotland shirt with a BT logo, makes a break during last month's Guinness Six Nations match against Italty (Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Sport and alcohol are two things that don’t tend to mix well. Some of the most dedicated elite sports people – Olympic-standard rowers, marathon runners and the like – either do not drink at all or do so only on rare, special occasions.

So the extraordinary prevalence of adverts for alcohol in sport makes for a rather curious cocktail.

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According to new research, viewers watching a live Scottish Premier League match on television are exposed to alcohol marketing an average of once every 98 seconds. Think that’s a concern? It’s much more frequent in Six Nations rugby matches with a rate of once every 15 seconds.

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It is a fact worth repeating to any young person with aspirations to sporting greatness that drinking too much alcohol will end any dreams of gracing Murrayfield or Hampden and instead put them on a road to ruin taken by all too many people in Scotland. We are a nation with a considerable drink problem.

However, asked about the new study, a spokesperson for Scottish Rugby responded that the money raised from sponsorship deals “helps us reinvest record amounts into grassroots rugby, for the betterment of the game and society moreover by encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle through participation”. So, a healthy activity is being used to promote something that can lead to serious health problems but this in turn helps encourage more people to take up said healthy activity. It’s a bit of an odd argument and one based mainly on the importance of one thing: money.

However, we are a long way from the Corinthian days of amateur sport, and money is important. It’s also right to say that most people drink and not all of them do so to excess, even if Scotland, as a nation, buys more than the recommended weekly limit of alcohol. Whisky is also a significant industry, a powerhouse of Scotland’s economy, and something of a cultural icon.

Moderation in all things may be a generalisation, but it is something that is wise to apply to alcohol, an idea that more people in Scotland should embrace.

So perhaps our sporting bodies and clubs should consider just how much they are promoting the ‘demon drink’ and whether it is too much. Once every 15 seconds seems excessive. A reduction in that rate, slightly less sponsorship cash and a few more warnings about the dangers of over-consumption might be in order.

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