Liquor companies petition NZRU
Sat, 14 Jul 2012 6:04p.m.
By Brook Sabin
The New Zealand Rugby Union is tonight being accused of being a political pawn for breweries after a confidential report was leaked to 3 News.
It shows there is a real risk that rugby could lose sponsorship from the alcohol companies because of new liquor regulations and raises the idea of the NZRU using its "political strength" to advance the cause of breweries.
Liquor companies pour millions into sponsoring Super Rugby.
But alcohol watchdogs say the leaked report proves that breweries are after much more than advertising.
“It is rather chilling to see this strategic relationship between the NZRU and the breweries,” says director of the National Addiction Centre Doug Sellman.
The report is an independent commercial review of Super Rugby, conducted for the NZRU last year.
It reveals core sponsorship from the brewery sector is "very much at risk" because of regulations meaning beer must be sold in plastic bottles at stadia.
The breweries say that's much more expensive than traditional cans, and on this issue the report asks “should rugby be leveraging its status and political strength more to mitigate this risk, or even turn it into a more positive commercial outcome for brewery partners, and thereby rugby? One key brewery partner believes so!"
“I think it's completely inappropriate for commercial interests such as the breweries to be asking a national sporting body to act on their behalf,” says Rebecca Williams of Alcohol Healthwatch.
The report goes on to recommend a risk management plan, which includes "working to ensure liquor licensing regulations do not result in the loss of sponsorship from the brewery sector".
“I'm deeply concerned,” says Greens MP Kevin Hague. “In this case it looks like the NZRU is being used as a political pawn for the alcohol industry.”
The breweries didn't want to be interviewed.
But the NZRU released a statement saying they have many sponsors and "maintaining a constructive relationship with all our partners is essential. It costs $100 million a year to run the game.
“We hope brewers continue to support rugby in this country as they have for many years, and we remain committed to ensure all our partners get value for money from the support they give rugby."
But alcohol watchdogs say that's not in the public interest, given alcohol causes billions of dollars of harm to New Zealanders each year.
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