‘Millions’ of children exposed to World Cup alcohol marketing

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Viewers of the key World Cup broadcasts this summer saw one example of alcohol marketing for every minute of playing time, according to a report from Alcohol Concern. The charity is asking the government to ‘consider whether the harms outweigh the financial benefits’, as the audience included ‘millions of children and young people’. 

Researchers studied six matches – two shown on the BBC and four on ITV – including all of the England games, the semi-finals and the final, with the broadcasts recorded and coded according to the number of visual references to alcohol, including logos. They found an average of just under 100 alcohol references per programme, plus ten alcohol commercials when the games were shown on ITV. Around 80 per cent of the references were from electronic pitch-side sponsor boards, with more than two-thirds for official World Cup beer sponsors Budweiser, while the 39 alcohol adverts shown during the four commercially broadcast games totalled more than 12 minutes. 

‘It is estimated half the games analysed were viewed by more than one million under-18s,’ says the document, a figure within the existing rules on whether alcohol advertising is appropriate. ‘Alcohol marketing in sport has become so ubiquitous that it often goes unnoticed,’ it adds, and calls for the government to legislate for the phased removal of alcohol marketing from sporting events starting with football.  

‘Alcohol marketing is linked to consumption, particularly in under-18s,’ said Alcohol Concern programme policy manager Tom Smith. ‘The volume of alcohol marketing in sport, especially in football which is popular with children and younger people, is enormous. If a million children can be exposed to alcohol marketing on TV and no rules be broken, we should also look at whether the existing rules that are meant to protect our kids are really working.’

The charity has also announced that Professor Sir Ian Gilmore – chair of the UK Alcohol Health Alliance and a former president of the Royal College of Physicians – has been appointed its new president. ‘He will bring an invaluable wealth of knowledge and experience,’ said chief executive Jackie Ballard. 

Meanwhile, Public Health England (PHE) has launched its ‘liver disease profiles’ tool which demonstrates stark regional variations, with male death rates up to four times higher in some local authority areas than others. 

Liver disease is the only major cause of death that continues to rise in England while falling in other European countries, with 90 per cent of cases caused by either alcohol, obesity or hepatitis B and C. One in ten people in England who die in their 40s now die of liver disease, while Alcohol Concern’s updated ‘map of alcohol harm’ shows that the total number of alcohol-related NHS admissions in England – when inpatient, outpatient and A&E visits are all included – stood at just below the 10m mark in 2012-13.

‘Liver disease is a public health priority because young lives are being needlessly lost,’ said PHE’s liver disease lead Professor Julia Verne. ‘We must do more to raise awareness, nationally and locally, and this is why it is so important for the public and health professionals to understand their local picture.’ 

New PHE figures on alcohol treatment, however, showed a 5 per cent increase in the number of people in treatment in the last year, with more than 90 per cent waiting less than three weeks. The numbers were encouraging, said director of drugs and alcohol Rosanna O’Connor, but there was ‘much more to do’. 

Alcohol Marketing at the FIFA World Cup 2014: 

a frequency analysis, and alcohol harm map at www.alcoholconcern.org.uk