Junk food companies should not sponsor sport events

By June Shannon Policy News   |   13th Aug 2018

New National Sports Policy lacks clarity on corporate sponsorship of sporting events.

Concerns have been raised about the lack of clarity contained in the Government’s new National Sports Policy around corporate sponsorship, with the Irish Heart Foundation calling for junk food and drink companies to be excluded from sponsoring sporting events.

The National Sports Policy 2018-2027 was launched recently by the Minster for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Shane Ross, TD, and the Minister with responsibility for Tourism and Sport, Mr Brendan Griffin, TD.

Launching the National Sports Policy Ministers Ross and Griffin reaffirmed the Government’s intention to doubling funding for sport, from €112 million in 2018 to €220 million in 2027.

The Policy sets out a number of high level goals which include, increased participation in sports from 43 per cent to 50 per cent by 2027 and more targeted high-performance funding to deliver more Olympic/Paralympic medals (From 13 medals in 2016 to a target of 20 in 2028).

The Irish Heart Foundation is calling for junk food and drink companies to be excluded from sponsoring sporting events.

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In relation to the funding of high performance sports the report noted, “As well as the need for an increased level of funding from Government, the opportunity for corporate Ireland to invest in high performance is one that remains largely untapped. There may be merit in Sport Ireland and the relevant NGBs [National Governing Bodies for Sport] recruiting experts to engage with the business and potential donor community to establish more innovative and attractive mechanisms for them to make a more substantial contribution.”

Furthermore, a chapter on the National Sports Campus, which provides world-class training facilities to support top athletes in preparing for competition, stated, “Sport Ireland will also explore alternative options for funding, including different financial models, sale of land, philanthropy or through sponsorship by means of naming rights or otherwise.”

One of the actions contained in the policy read that opportunities would “be explored so that business or individual donors will also be attracted to invest in a more meaningful way in sport.”

“It is critical that alternative options for funding including sponsorship by means of naming rights or otherwise, explicitly exclude junk food and drinks companies”

Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager , Irish Heart Foundation

Commenting Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager for the Irish Heart Foundation, said it was disappointing that there had been “no joined-up thinking with reference to commercial sponsorship and the need to reduce children’s exposure to junk food marketing.”

“It is critical that alternative options for funding including sponsorship by means of naming rights or otherwise, explicitly exclude junk food and drinks companies” she said.

Ms Reilly explained that in February this year the Department of Health published its voluntary code for the advertising and marketing of High fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) foods.

The Irish Heart Foundation was critical of the voluntary code at the time and warned that it would be ineffectual in curbing the influence of commercial companies in marketing to children.

Therefore, Ms Reilly said the “complete absence of recognition in this sports policy that naming rights and sponsorship could in fact increase exposure to junk food marketing is regrettable. While the voluntary code states that it applies to all forms of commercial sponsorship of activities or events of any kind, it does not include corporate identities, trading names or master brands.”

"We would be highly concerned that in the search for alternative sources of funding, this sports policy could result in junk food and drinks companies exploiting opportunities for naming rights,"

Kathryn Reilly, Policy Manager, Irish Heart Foundation

“Similarly, corporate social responsibility initiatives are allowed. We would be highly concerned that in the search for alternative sources of funding, this sports policy could result in junk food and drinks companies exploiting opportunities for naming rights. We do not want to have a situation where the Government is responsible for sports facilities or campuses being named after popular brands, associating themselves with sports and thus increasing their exposure to children. The Sports policy should be stronger in this area.”

These concerns aside, Ms Reilly said that the Irish Heart Foundation welcomed the policy’s stated goal of increasing participation in sports and increased investment in Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs).

Efforts to increase participation within lower socio-economic groups, persons with disabilities and older people were also welcomed, as were plans contained in the Policy for the creation of a dedicated €1m programme for Disability Sport through the deployment of a Sport Inclusion Disability Officer in all 26 LSPs countrywide and yearly increases in funding for participation at local level.

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childhood obesity heart junk food marketing National Sports Policy sports sports policy stop targeting kids stroke

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