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Drinks Firms Threatened With Festival Ban

14 September 2006

Festival organisers have slammed a government report that claims festival sponsorship by alcoholic drinks companies is encouraging binge drinking in the UK and should be banned...

Leading figures behind the Reading and Leeds Festivals and T In The Park have laid into the report, accusing it of being short-sighted and failing to look at the real issues behind alcohol misuse. 

Government advisers yesterday claimed that drinks companies should be banned from sponsoring sports and music events to help tackle Britain's binge-drinking culture.

They blamed irresponsible advertising and poor education for a surge in dangerous drinking, particularly among young women, warning ministers: "The industry spends about £200million annually on promoting a very misleading picture of the realities of alcohol consumption."

A ban would affect Reading and Leeds Festival, which are both sponsored by Carling, and T In The Park, which is backed by Tennents.

However, Mean Fiddler boss Melvin Benn, the driving force behind Reading and Leeds, said any ban would not herald the end of the twinned festivals.

He told Virtual Festivals: "We're not reliant on the sponsorship from Carling. Not at all, but it is nice to have it."

The hugely experienced festival organiser, who also puts on Latitude and runs operations at Glastonbury, denied any relationship between beer branding and binge drinking.

He said: "There's none whatsoever. I can assure everyone that at least as much alcohol was consumed per head in 1972 at Reading, when there was no sponsor, compared to today."

Carling has sponsored the Reading and Leeds festival for nine years and mirrors a similar relationship between Tennents and T In The Park north of the border.

A spokeman for Tennents told Virtual Festivals: "This seems to be a typical reaction from an advisory group more interested in grabbing headlines rather than actually looking at the real and complex issues behind alcohol misuse."

The source said a ban would make little difference and said that sponsors actually had a positive impact at festivals, with a responsibility to educate people about reasonable use of alcohol. 

The spokesperson continued: “We are proud to play an active part in creating and supporting events which contribute positively to people’s lives, just like alcohol can and does do when enjoyed in the proper way, as it is by the majority of people."

The Portman Group, which represents the drinks industry, also questioned the need for such radical measures, saying alcohol consumption had stabilised among the under-18s and young women.

The report calling for a drinks sponsorship ban was drafted by the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs and will now by considered by government ministers.



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Article by: Ross Purdie

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