New drive to ban alcohol advertising in Australian sport
A new campaign has been launched in Australia to ban the advertising of alcohol during television coverage of major sporting events.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education is leading the drive, citing its own study which found that during rugby league’s recent NRL Grand Final there were more than three instances of alcohol advertising exposure per minute, including on-field branding.
There are concerns, in particular, about the exposure of children to alcohol advertising in popular sports such as Australian Rules football, both rugby codes, cricket and field hockey, and the potential for encouraging binge drinking.
Announcing the 'End Alcohol Advertising in Sport' campaign in Melbourne, Michael Thorn, the chief executive of FARE, claimed that a "nonsensical exemption" in the Australian Commercial Television Code of Practice was enabling children to see the advertising.
He added: "The evidence is very clear that children's exposure to alcohol advertising encourages them to start drinking earlier, to binge drink more often, and to start a journey toward alcohol-related harm. It's time for regulators to put an end to the alcohol industry's deliberate efforts to encourage systematic alcohol harm and abuse in its customers of tomorrow."
Thorn citied the impact of conventional TV commercials, moving banners at matches and logos on shirts and goal posts.
He also claimed there was support from the Australian public for a tightening of the rules on alcohol advertising, saying that nine out of 10 people agree children should not be exposed to such commercials between 4pm and 8.30pm on weekdays.
However, a spokesperson for federal communications minister Mitch Fifield defended the legislation in place, telling AAP that "the rules relating to the scheduling of alcohol advertising are provided under a co-regulatory framework overseen by the independent media regulator, the ACMA," and were subject to regular review.
FARE has received support for its campaign from various former Australian sports stars, including the NRL’s Steve Ella and the AFL's Mick Malthouse.
Ella said at the launch: "The game I love is awash with alcohol sponsorship. Help me change that."
He called on the league to rethink its "toxic association with alcohol," adding: "Kids are very impressionable. If they are exposed to alcohol earlier in tlife they will start drinking earlier in life."
Rob Moodie, the former chairman of the NRL's Melbourne Storm and now a University of Melbourne public health professor, called for a total ban on alcohol sponsorship in sport, saying that because of existing deals "the kings of Australian sport - willingly or unwillingly... have become ambassadors of booze."
However, a ban on the promotion of alcohol in Australian sport would be problematic given the importance of sponsors from the sector to governing bodies and teams.
Earlier today, Tennis Australia announced a record deal for a Chinese sponsor with Luzhou Laojiao, a leading liquor producer, for the Australian Open, which is set to run to 2023.