Revisions to Alcohol/Tobacco Law could affect sports sponsorships
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-14 02:21 PM
The Legislative Yuan reviewed a draft amendment to the Tobacco and Alcohol Administration Act (TAAA) Wednesday, with several legislators pushing for stricter rules and a total ban on advertising, promotion, marketing, sponsorship and other events for alcohol and tobacco products.

Professor Lee Yung-chieh of the Department of Public Administration at National Open University warns that if the revised law is passed as currently written it could spell doom for Super Basketball League (SBL) basketball teams sponsored by Taiwan Beer and Gold Medal Beer, and even top-ranked tennis doubles player Su-Wei Hsieh could be barred from playing in a uniform with the Taiwan Beer logo splashed across the chest.

Lee points out that wine and tobacco are important aspects of both Eastern and Western cultures and play an indispensable role in dinner parties and other festive occasions. He warns that strict restrictions prohibiting promotion and sponsorship of teams and individuals in the sports sector by tobacco and liquor companies are definitely not a good move for the government.

Lee contrasted the proposed amendments with professional baseball in the US, where the Milwaukee Brewers are a team in MLB. Although the team is not sponsored by an alcohol-producing company, the mascot is the Brewers, in deference to Milwaukee’s well-known beer-brewing industry. In addition, the team plays in Miller Stadium, where the rights to the stadium name were acquired by Miller Brewing. Lee notes that instead of banning liquor advertising and sponsorship in sports, the government should impose stricter rules for drunken behavior and to heighten awareness programs for drunk driving and other safety issues.

Opponents to the changes protest that the amendment will force sponsored teams to disband and show a very unsportsmanlike face for the government that could cause irreparable damage to sports in Taiwan by yanking away financial support from some of the nation’s leading sports organizations and athletes.

Cheng Yao-chia, PR director for the Taiwan Gold Medal Beer Team, warns that the amendments to the TAAA will have a tremendous impact on the team’s future operations if they are passed as currently worded. Meanwhile, he said, the team will carry on with its normal training and practice schedule and players and coaches will remained focused on upcoming games. Taiwan Beer head coach Yan Chia-hua points out that many foreign sports organizations are sponsored by tobacco and alcohol companies in a relationship that benefits both the clubs and the sponsoring products. Yan said this is a very common arrangement in sports, and Taiwan would be bucking a very strong international trend if it acts to ban such sponsorship."The whole idea is unreasonable,” he complained. Although the amendment has yet to be finalized, Yan is still very worried about the possibility of losing a long-time sponsor of the team.

SBL Secretary-General Lee Yi-chung notes that the league’s chairman, Ting Shou-chung, is a legislator and hopes that Ting will makes a concerted effort to support the league and affected teams in this matter. He expressed his hopes that the government will provide protection and support for the league.

Yang Hsiao-min, a special assistant to the General Manager of Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor (TTL), notes that Taiwan Beer and TTL have been very active in promoting the social welfare and cultural heritage of Taiwan through sponsorship of a wide range of sports and cultural events. He adds that this is a very good thing for companies and for the people, and it should not be outlawed by the government.

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