David Gallop, CEO of Football Federation Australia. The peak body has reversed its ban on alcohol sponsorship. Photo: Edwina PicklesThe A-League has dropped a ban on clubs being sponsored by alcohol brands, prompting accusations from health experts that it is more interested in money than principles.
Football Federation Australia had banned clubs from signing sponsorship deals that conflicted with its support from the Australian National Preventive Health Agency. But when the Abbott government stripped the agency of funding in the May budget clubs were freed up to fill the gap with companies that were previously barred.
Two clubs have since signed alcohol sponsorship deals understood to be worth more than $250,000 – reigning premiers Brisbane Roar with Lion’s Hahn Super Dry and Wellington Phoenix with Danish beer company Carlsberg.
The shift comes little more than a year after the A-League was part of an anti-binge-drinking campaign with other sports that refused alcohol sponsorship, during which a “strong enough to say enough” video on screens during A-League games.
Most major sports code accept alcohol sponsorship. The AFL is sponsored by Carlton Draught and Treasury Wine Estate, the NRL by Victoria Bitter and Wild Turkey and Cricket Australia by CUB, Victoria Bitter and Carlton Mid.
The A-League policy reversal angered health groups, which have campaigned against the high levels of alcohol and junk food advertising across most Australian sports.
Australian Drug Foundation chief executive John Rogerson said sports sponsorship deals were making it increasingly difficult to shield children and young people from alcohol advertising.
“We know that alcohol companies want to advertise to young males and they do that through sport,” he said. “You can’t hold young people responsible. How can they do that when they’re bombarded with images and messages?”
Mr Rogerson said a national conversation about the infiltration of alcohol companies into sport was well overdue.
Mike Daube, Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University, said the move was a backwards step and proved that the preventive health agency had provided an alternative to sport bodies seeking sponsors.
“This sends out the message to kids to associate alcohol with sport. It’s a very poor decision by the A-League,” he said.
“Losing that funding is a real loss because it just opened the door to alcohol sponsors. They’re more interested in the money than any principles.”
The A-League declined to comment.
National research commissioned by the Salvation Army in 2013 found that almost three-quarters of Australians believed alcohol and sport were too closely related. Almost 70 per cent of the 1001 Australian surveyed said alcohol sponsorship should be phased out.
Alcohol advertising is banned on television before 8.30pm – with the exception of live sport.
The Australian Sports Commission reported in October that three-quarters of all sporting sponsorship came from alcohol, junk food or gambling. Cricket had the closest relationship with alcohol, having 10 alcohol sponsors.
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