SPFL chief Neil Doncaster warns alcohol advertising ban could be 'extremely grave' for Scottish football

Scottish football authorities have warned that banning alcohol advertising from football matches could have “significant unintended consequences” for the game.

Scottish Government ministers have launched a consultation over plans to restrict the presence of alcohol branding at sports events, including on replica strips and pitch-side hoardings, in a bid to improve public health and create a more “family-friendly” environment.

Commercial deals involving alcohol brands have been historically prevalent among Scottish football clubs and competitions with a recent study showing that only Belgium has a higher proportion of alcohol advertising across the top European leagues.

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Half of Scottish Premiership teams are currently sponsored by a drinks company while the SPFL also has Glen's Vodka as an official partner.

Glen's Vodka are a current sponsor of the SPFL with half of Scottish Premiership sides also involved in partnerships with alcohol brands. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
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The Scottish Professional Football League and Scottish FA estimate that the cost of banning alcohol promotion could run into “multi-million pounds” while also jeopardising the potential hosting of major events such as Euro 2028 and UEFA club competition finals.

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster said: “We will take time to consider these proposals in far greater detail and respond in due course, but even at an initial stage, it is clear that the sporting, social and financial implications could be extremely grave.

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Sport worldwide depends to a very great degree on sponsorship, and drinks companies have a long and supportive history in the Scottish game. Their valuable financial contribution is hugely important to the wellbeing of our sport and its ability to support a range of social benefits. To remove that revenue stream, at a time when we are experiencing the most significant economic challenges for a generation, could have huge implications for clubs and Scottish sport more generally.

“Over recent years, Scottish football has made enormous strides, leading the charge in promoting responsible drinking, which should not be regarded as an inherent evil, but something that the vast majority of the adult population enjoy in moderation.

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SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster has warned of 'extremely grave' consequences of banning alcohol advertising at Scottish football matches. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

“That said, the Scottish Government’s initial proposals raise a number of very profound questions. To consider just one example, if the government enforces a blanket ban on alcohol advertising in Scottish football stadia, there could be enormous consequences for all Scottish clubs playing in Europe, where brewers such as Heineken are at the centre of UEFA’s family of sponsors.”

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The SFA and SPFL plan to contribute to the consultation process and have encouraged football clubs and supporters, as well as other sporting organisations to do likewise.

Ian Maxwell, SFA chief executive, added: "Scottish football is already restricted by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, which for more than 40 years has prohibited the sale of alcohol within football grounds. As a consequence, we cannot control consumption levels that take place outside of the stadium bowl and thus cannot be part of a data-led solution.

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“We will contribute to the consultation to ensure a fact-based approach and to highlight the consequences of any legislation being imposed, not just financially, but in potentially being precluded from bidding for major football events, as well as other world-class, international sporting events where alcohol partnerships are an integral part of a diverse sponsorship portfolio.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the national game remains supportive of responsible drinking campaigns, especially aimed at harmful drinkers, and will continue to use the power of football to promote that responsibility for the benefit of all concerned.”

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