Brawling cricketer lands damaging blow to Oz alcohol self-regulation

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Australia

Brawling cricketer lands damaging blow to Oz alcohol self-regulation
Cricket has for over a century been seen as a gentleman’s game, but that mantle fell a long time ago. The relentlessly evolving wealth and professionalism of the sport has served to “bring out the mongrel” in players in a way that would have been unheard of on English village greens or Indian pavilions in a past era.

Recent events involving alcohol, such as one incident this week in a Birmingham bar when an Australian player, David Warner, allegedly punched his England counterpart, will serve to tarnish the sport’s gentlemanly reputation just a little further while stirring fresh debate about the relationship between cricket and its major benefactor Down Under: the alcohol industry.

Twelve months ago, a dozen sports agreed to accept money from the Australian government instead of taking sponsorship from breweries and drinks companies as part of an A$25m campaign against binge drinking.

However, the three biggest sports – rugby league, Aussie rules and cricket – didn’t sign up, largely because they rely on brewery funding. The sports minister, Kate Lundy, did applaud the way Australia’s cricket board had supported the initiative’s message – even if images of the Australian captain advising spectators at Edgbaston cricket ground to drink responsibly ahead of the fracas now look ironic.

Pressure will now be on Cricket Australia – and its major sponsors, Victoria Bitter and Carlton Mid – to do some soul-searching in light of recent incidents, not least following a report released this week by the country’s independent Alcohol Advertising Review Board revealing more than 130 alcohol marketing complaints had been upheld over the past year, and described the self-regulation of the alcohol industry as “a dismal failure​”.

Among its many findings, the report slammed the overt endorsement of VB by a respected commentator, Mark Nicholas, in a way that had “blurred the lines​” between commentary and advertising during a Test match.

The report said: “There is an urgent need to ensure stronger action to control irresponsible alcohol advertising and promotion. The self-regulatory alcohol advertising system in Australia has, in our view, consistently failed to prevent the exposure of children and young people to alcohol promotion and to ensure that all forms of alcohol advertising and promotion are socially responsible​.

We believe it makes no sense to leave regulation to an industry that not only seeks to sell as much of its product as possible, but opposes any significant constraints on its promotional activity and has a long record locally and internationally of supporting ineffective voluntary self-regulation​.”

Only the dumbest turkeys vote for Christmas, so Australia’s drinks industry needs to get smart: the wolves are barking at the door. The report claims that 80% of the alcohol consumed by 14- to 14-year-olds is done so in a way that put the drinker’s and others’ health at risk, with advertising to blame.

This is a dreadfully sweeping statement, but Australians are getting tired of their country’s binge drinking epidemic, and the public will latch on to figures like these regardless of the science behind them.

They will read reports of their sporting heroes, after a night of Jagerbombs and vodka-Red Bulls, punching members of the opposition in the early hours of the morning. And they will be appalled by complaints of Jim Beam targeting four-year-olds through its branded jackets, along with scores of other cases of drinks companies running roughshod over the spirit of self-regulation.

By its very nature, self-regulation can rarely be sustained unless it has an extremely tight set of rules and an industry association willing to police them without fear or favour.

Five years ago, the former Australian fast bowler, Mike Whitney, predicted that alcohol sponsorship would “go the same way as cigarettes​” (which had until the ‘Nineties played a big part in cricket sponsorship).

If alcohol advertisers continue to push their self-spun boundaries, and players keep throwing punches, Whitney’s words might ring true.

Have your say: Is the alcohol industry going to far in its advertising? Let us know in the box below.

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1 comment


Posted by Lee Green,

Driving and alcohol - we are told do not mix - yet we have no hesitation in taking sponsorship money to put on our Formula 1 car???
Sport plays the use sport to get fit and yet relys on substances that don't support fitness - alcohol contains ethanol and so is considered a poison, yet it's okay in sensible amounts???
The contradictions are vast and yet we choose not to acknowledge them. The reason they are so is because some small group of people are making money and that brings power and that is it.
So what is true is never up for discussion but this shoddy stuff that gets everyone engaged. It's a rort and should be named as one publicly. It serves no one but the companies and sports clunbs that keep all the parts of the machine alive and well. No matter how disfunctional and costly it is to society at large.

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