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Sport told it's time for last drinks

- Featured Image

The AMA is at the forefront of efforts to get the sports industry to kick its alcohol habit, calling for an inquiry into alcohol advertising and promotion and backing far-reaching changes to the taxation of wine.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said there was an urgent need to reconsider the way alcohol was marketed and promoted in Australia, particularly through sport.

“Young Australians are exposed to an unprecedented level of advertising that glorifies alcohol,” Dr Hambleton said.

He was commenting on the release of research commissioned by The Salvation Army that showed significant community concern about the strong links between alcohol and sport.

Seventy-two per cent of adults surveyed by Roy Morgan Research said they thought alcohol and sport had become too closely related, 70 per cent thought it was encouraging young people to drink, and 67 per cent thought it was time to start phasing alcohol sponsorship of sport out.

“Australia is a sporting nation, and the alcohol industry concentrates a lot of its promotional and sponsorship activity on live broadcasts of the most prominent and popular sporting events, including grand finals that are watched by millions of people,” Dr Hambleton said, with products promoted during ad breaks, on sporting grounds, on billboards and on players’ jerseys.

The AMA President said there was “strong evidence” that the more young people were exposed to alcohol advertising, the earlier and more heavily they drank.

“Associating alcohol with sport sends a clear message to young people that drinking and sport go together.”

But sports organisations so far appear unrepentant about their strong links with the alcohol industry and its sponsorship money.

Last month Cricket Australia refused to run an advertisement declaring “Alcohol and sports don’t mix” during the Ryobi Cup in Sydney, while Cricket NSW has just signed a three-year sponsorship deal with Carlton & United Breweries, which has also secured naming rights for the upcoming one-day international series between Australia and England.

A Cricket Australia spokesman told The Sydney Morning Herald that it was justified in rejecting an ad with a message that it saw as at odds with its own position on alcohol consumption and sport.

“It is better to engage with the reality that many fans enjoy a responsible drink than it is to turn them off with a prohibition message they don’t believe,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government said it had no current plans to alter the taxation regime for alcohol.

It was responding to a call from the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol, of which the AMA is a member, to replace the current wine equalisation tax with a tax on alcohol by volume, which it has been estimated would collect an extra $1.32 billion in tax revenue from the wine industry.

While the alcohol industry is so far successfully resisting efforts to change its taxation or curb its sports sponsorship, it faces the likelihood that in future it will have to include the energy content of its product on its labels.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand has commissioned a cost-benefit analysis of a proposal that the kilojoule content of packaged wine, beer and spirits be inscribed on the packaging.

Adrian Rollins