UK removes alcohol sponsors from childrens' shirts

British football club shirts sold to children will no longer carry the logos of alcohol-industry sponsors under rules unveiled by the Portman Group, which represents Britain’s main drinks companies. Anticipating the release of the UK Government's own alcohol strategy, the multi-billion-pound drinks industry has voluntarily agreed that it is inappropriate for children to wear shirts advertising alcohol brands. Among the football clubs currently sponsored by drinks firms are English Premier League clubs Liverpool and Everton and Scottish Premier League clubs Rangers and Celtic.

According to Robert Winnett and Sarah-Kate Templeton in the Sunday Times, "The market in replica shirts is estimated to be worth more than £250 million annually with the majority sold to teenage boys. Children are unlikely to want to wear replica kits without logos and any slump in sales could have financial implications."

David Poley, chief executive of the Portman Group, said: “We are aware of the criticism about the wearing of shirts advertising drinks firms by children. This move may make alcohol companies relatively unattractive as sponsors. One of the concerns is that if you do take your branding off there may well be some fall-out in terms of reduced sales.”

Last week the Portman Group wrote to sports associations informing them of the forthcoming rule change. "However, there is set to be criticism that the crack-down will apply only to contracts or contract extensions signed after next January. Carlsberg, which sponsors Liverpool, is thought to have agreed a new three-year deal within the past few days and is therefore set to dodge the clampdown initially. The deal is said to be worth more than £20 million. A spokeswoman for the Danish brewer said it supported the new Portman Group code but the firm was confident its new sponsorship deal would not be affected," the Sunday Times detailed.

“I welcome the announcement and hope it’s a move towards the complete withdrawal of the alcohol industry from sports events. Every statistic that comes out shows an increasingly concerning situation surrounding alcohol use by the young,” Prof Ian Gilmour, a liver specialist and President of the Royal College of Physicians who led calls for the ban, said. John Taylor, Chairman of Sports Impact, a firm negotiating sponsorship, said: “There is a difference between sponsoring an event – that seems entirely appropriate – but beer branding on shirts is less appropriate.”

Gambling regulators are considering similar rules for casino and poker firms sponsoring football clubs. They are expected to announce a clampdown this month.