Experts query Eagles’ sponsor ban

The validity of Silver Blades’ decision to cite Department of Health regulations as the reason for banning Blackburn Eagles’ main sponsor from advertising in their facilities has been questioned.

The newly-crowned NIHL North Laidler D2 champions announced on Saturday that unaffordable changes to the club’s ice time contract and the implementation of revised rules regarding advertising left them with no other option than to call it a day.

Blackburn Arena management told the Eagles that the club’s main sponsor, E-cigarette firm Totally Wicked, could no longer advertise at the rink as a result of a new 2016 ruling.

This precludes advertising across a range of media platforms, as well as in activities which take place in two or more European Economic States.

The rink owners, Silver Blades, issued an in-depth statement to the Lancashire Telegraph earlier this week which included the following comments: “Although this directive is open to interpretation, the activity of ice hockey clearly takes place in two or more EEA states.

“Additionally, games at Blackburn Ice Arena, including some featuring the Blackburn Eagles, are featured on television.”

However, Totally Wicked Technical Director Liam Humberstone has criticised the decision.

He confirmed that the company consulted with Department of Health, MHRA, Trading Standards and the Committee for Advertising Practice on the matter of sporting event sponsorship in 2016.

“The suggestion that a national ice hockey event in Blackburn is in any way taking place in more than one EEA state, or that it is having an effect in more than one state is ludicrous,” he said.

“Silver Blades’ position is completely at odds with a consultation position on national level sponsorship that has been ratified for us by qualified legal opinion, and after extensive consultation with interested legislative bodies.”

BIH also discussed the issue with the Rugby Football League (RFL), as Super League club St Helens’ stadium is sponsored by Totally Wicked.

The RFL said that the Saints had also legally checked the regulations, and found that as they only played in that stadium in the United Kingdom the two state rule clearly did not apply.

They further confirmed that the ruling related only to the individual club carrying out the activity, not the activity as a whole.

The section relating to television advertising also appears not to affect the Eagles, as neither the club nor the NIHL has a broadcast deal in place.

St Helens’ sponsorship from Totally Wicked includes in-ground advertising boards, with these clearly visible during their home game against Warrington Wolves last week.

The move by Silver Blades to force the Eagles off the ice by denying them Totally Wicked’s sponsorship also heavily contradicts the latest long-term study conducted by Cancer Research UK.

A report published in February’s edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who swapped smoking regular cigarettes for e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for at least six months, had much lower levels of toxic and cancer causing substances in their body than people who continued to use conventional cigarettes.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, believes that promoting the benefits of nicotine replacement products should be encouraged.

“Around a third of tobacco-caused deaths are due to cancer, so we want to see many more of the UK’s 10 million smokers break their addiction,” she told the Cancer Research UK website.

“This study adds to growing evidence that e-cigarettes are a much safer alternative to tobacco, and suggests the long term effects of these products will be minimal.

“Understanding and communicating the benefits of nicotine replacements, such as e-cigarettes, is an important step towards reducing the number of tobacco-related deaths here in the UK.”

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