Child replica shirts stripped of alcohol sponsorship

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Portman group, Alcoholic beverage, Alcohol

The use of alcohol branding on children's replica shirts is to be
red-carded, as the industry faces further restrictions on how it
promotes its products.

From 1 January 2008, any sponsorship deals for alcohol brands appearing on sporting shirts will be prohibited from being included on replica shirts meant for children, as part of a drive to encourage responsible drinking. The recommendations come as part of the latest proposals by the Portman Group, which represents a number of the country's leading brewers. Alcohol producers are coming under increasing pressure to promote responsibility. The decision is part of a number of proposals designed to curb growing levels of irresponsible drinking, particularly in teenagers. David Poley, the Portman Group's chief executive, said that the industry would lend its support to the scheme, despite disagreeing with what impact of branding on sports apparel had on under-age drinking. "There is no evidence to link this marketing with under-age drinking,"​ he stated. "Even so, drinks companies are concerned about the negative perception caused by their logos appearing on children's shirts."​ Though he stressed that manufacturers had not wished to target children through sponsored branding, he understood concerns over children being used as billboards for alcoholic products. "This side effect of sponsorship is set to end,"​ he stated. "Drinks companies are taking the lead even though this decision may lessen their commercial appeal as sponsors if clubs sell fewer shirts." ​ Any manufacturer found to be breaching the restrictions will be blacklisted by retailers until it complies with the changes, the Portman group added. The move would involve a number of leading British sporting groups including Liverpool and Rangers football clubs, and Wasps rugby club. Even the more gentlemanly realm of cricket, more associated in the UK with gin and tonic than lager, will face restrictions. Clubs including Essex, Glamorgan and Gloucestershire will all affected by the proposals. The group added that the definition of a children's shirt would be judged through its VAT classification. The industry is being increasingly targeted for its part in spiraling rates of underage alcohol consumption, and the measures are part of wider proposals to reduce irresponsible drinking. The Portman group is therefore expected to clamp down on alcohol advertising when the fourth edition of its code of practice on the naming, packaging and promotion of alcoholic drinks is released later this month. However, according to recent research by Alcohol Concern, the industry certainly has it work cut out. Alcohol consumption in boys between 11 and 13 years of age has increased by 43.4 per cent between 2000 and 2006, according to its Glass Half Empty report. The figure is even more pronounced in girls of that demographic, who were found to be drinking 82.6 per cent more over the same period.

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