5 August 2016: Members of the Alcohol Health Alliance have today written to Lord Coe, chair of the British Olympic Committee, to express concern about the partnership between Strongbow and Team GB at this year’s Olympic Games. The full text of our letter, which was published in the Guardian, is as follows.
Dear Lord Coe
As medical bodies and charities who support children and young people through sport, we are writing to express our concern that Strongbow is an official partner of Team GB at the Olympic Games.
Our children and young people look to our Team GB athletes as role models and heroes. They are right to do this – we should be proud as a nation of our athletes, who represent a fine example of what one can achieve through hard work and dedication.
Yet this also means that Team GB, as an organization, has a responsibility to consider what messages it is sending to our children and young people.
By partnering with an alcoholic drinks company, the message received by our children and young people will be that sport and alcohol go hand in hand. We are concerned that children will be encouraged to drink as a result.
There is strong evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing leads young people to drink at an earlier age. A study of school children aged 13-14 from four EU countries found exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship through viewing a major football tournament was linked to a 70% increased chance of underage drinking.
We know from the research that exposure to alcohol messages increases the likelihood that non-drinking young people will start to drink, and increases the likelihood that existing young drinkers will drink more alcohol, and in a more risky fashion. This exposure also leads to more positive beliefs among young people about alcohol.
The later we can delay the uptake of drinking among young people, the better – we know that the younger people start to drink, the more chance there is that they will become dependent drinkers, with all the harm that causes to individuals, their families and society.
This is why it is crucial that Team GB does not do anything which may promote the idea of drinking to our young people.
We therefore urge Team GB make a future commitment that, for future events, it will not partner with the alcohol industry.
Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance
Matt Stevenson-Dodd, Chief Executive, Street League
Katherine Brown, Director Institute of Alcohol Studies,
Joanna Simons CBE, Chief Executive Alcohol Concern
Colin Shevills, Director, Balance, the North East Alcohol Office
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive Royal Society for Public Health
Alison Douglas, Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland
Sarah Toule, Head of Health Information, World Cancer Research Fund
Eric Carlin, Director, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems
Modi Mwatsama, Director of Policy and Public Health UK Health Forum
Linda Harris, CEO Spectrum Community Health CIC, Medical Director RCGP Substance Misuse and Associated Health
Dr Clifford Mann, President, Royal College of Emergency Medicine
Prof Frank Murray, President, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
Andrea Crossfield, Chief Executive Healthier Futures
Andrew Langford, Chief Executive, British Liver Trust
Professor Jonathan Shepherd CBE, Director of the Violence Research Group
Kate Knight, Public Health Action
Professor Graeme Alexander, British Association for the Study of the Liver
Kieran Moriarty, British Society of Gastroenterology
Linda Bauld, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies