In recent days Diageo was reported to be threatening to scale down its Irish operations if a alcohol sponsorship ban came into effect in Ireland. Diageo control about 40% of the Irish alcohol market through products such as Guinness, Smirnoff, Baileys and numerous other products. Will banning alcohol from sports make a difference to drinking responsibly? It will ya.
Ireland and Irish people are mercilessly stereotyped because of our relationship with alcohol. St Patrick’s day around the world is treated as an excuse to get drunker than 16-year-old necking a bottle of Tequila while licking salt off a goat’s arse. The long held perception is the only people sober in Ireland are the children at school.
It is a right of passage for any European or American off the plane to head to the nearest bar for a pint of the black stuff. Take the recent example of Tom Cruise. Tom is over here to promote a film, he’s off the plane about an hour and he gets a pint of Guinness shoved in his hand. This, despite the fact he is a well-known teetotaller. What were they thinking? I like to think someone was feeling sorry for him because of his divorce from Katie what’s-her-name, and decided to try to get him drunk and help him drown his sorrows. After all that’s what us Irish men do. Our favourite team lose, drown the sorrows. Someone dies, drown our sorrows. Birth of a child, drown our sorrows. Fianna Fáil back in power, drown our sorrows. Tom Cruise for all his considerable acting skills and experience still couldn’t disguise the fact he looked like he was about to lick piss off a nettle before he took a sup of the black stuff.
It’s not confined to celebs either, On Barack Obama’s previous visit to Ireland pictures of him drinking Guinness were beamed around the world. The Guinness marketing department must have the handiest job in the country. Take the recent G8 summit in Fermanagh. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stopped off in Dublin. His Facebook page has – you guessed it, pictures of him necking pints like it was condemned mans last request. Remember the Queen’s visit? Her nibs and the Duke of Edinburgh were poured a pint of Guinness at the kind of early-morning hour that would make a hardened alcoholic blush.
The Russians are in Sligo. Renowned for their Herculean bouts of vodka drinking, the Russians should feel right home here – kindred spirits so to speak. Even the Sligo Tourism twitter account gave a shout out to the booze merchants.
The various hacks from around the world seem to be tweeting nothing but booze pictures of the G8 summit. Give peace a chance? More like give pints a chance.
Pubs in Ireland close twice a year, Good Friday and Christmas Day. If you were a foreigner having the misfortune to visit a supermarket or off licence in Ireland leading up to those two days, you would be forgiven for thinking pubs were to be closed for the next two years. Not only do people look like they are purchasing enough alcohol to drown their own sorrows, they look like they purchasing enough alcohol to drown the sorrows of all the sailors in the world also.
Our obsession with alcohol can be neatly summed up by this picture.
Michael Noonan, the Minister for Finance, added €1 to the price of a bottle of wine and all hell broke loose in the wine aisle of Tesco Artane, even before the price rise was to take effect. €1 added to bottle of wine? You wouldn’t see that kind of shopping behaviour if we were told there was massive food shortage.
Like Sisyphus forever pushing the boulder up the hill only for it to roll back down, banning alcohol sponsorship at sporting events is futile. Do you think Paddy is all of a sudden going to stop downing pints of Heineken just because they change the name of the Heineken cup to the H-cup? like they did in France, which has banned alcohol advertising. Or the Guinness hurling championship the G-cup ? Not a chance, there is more chance of Bertie Ahern becoming Taoiseach again and me joining Fianna Fáil.
Our culture revolves around alcohol – weddings, funerals, communions, celebrations, commiserations and sex. Banning alcohol from sporting events wont change our drinking culture.
I don’t have the answers to what will change our drinking culture, but it is absurdly hypocritical to ban alcohol from sporting events when as a nation we insist on having alcohol at every other event.