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Ban alcohol firms from sponsoring sports clubs and events, doctors urge

Leading doctors are demanding a ban on alcohol firms sponsoring sports clubs and events because they claim that the “outrageous” practice is fueling underage drinking by children.

The leaders of Britain’s nurses, A&E specialists and hospital doctors are among those urging ministers to outlaw the sort of deals that have seen Everton and Celtic football clubs agree multimillion pound tie-ups to advertise beer and cider brands on the front of their players’ shirts.

In a letter to the Guardian, a group of medical leaders, public health campaigners and health charities are calling for the action because alcohol sponsorship of sport has become “as commonplace as advertising for cereal or soap powder”.

Their intervention comes as millions of sports fans prepare to attend or watch on television a packed Boxing Day programme of football, racing and rugby, all of which have struck deals to help promote alcoholic drinks.

The letter claims: “Self-regulation of alcohol advertising isn’t working when it allows drink brands to dominate sporting events that attract children and adults, creating automatic associations between alcohol brands and sport that are cumulative, unconscious and built up over years.”

The signatories also bolster their plea to ministers by adding: “Importantly, evidence shows that exposure to alcohol advertising leads young people to drink more and to drink at an earlier age.”

“Alcohol sponsorship of events in the UK makes a significant contribution to the country’s vibrant and diverse economy, and provides essential support, allowing investment in grass roots and youth programmes nationwide,” she added.