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22/02/2011

More evidence of the harms of alcohol industry sponsorship of sport

While public health organisations in different countries recommend having alcohol advertising and sponsorship removed from sport the same way as tobacco was decades ago , new research provides evidence that alcohol industry sponsorship is associated with more hazardous drinking in sportspeople compared to non-alcohol sponsorship.

Health scientists from Monash University, the University of Manchester, Deakin University and University of Western Sydney, asked Australian sportspeople about their drinking behaviours, sport participation, and what sorts of sport sponsorship they currently receive.

After accounting for other influences receipt of alcohol industry sponsorship in various forms was associated with significantly higher levels of drinking. Receipt of similar forms of sponsorship from non-alcohol industries such as, building firms, food or clothing companies was not related to higher drinking levels.

Of the 30 % of sportspeople reporting receiving alcohol industry sponsorship, 68 % met World Health Organisation criteria for classification as hazardous drinkers.

The research, published online in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, is the first to compare alcohol industry sponsorship to non-alcohol industry sponsorship.

The leader of the study, Dr Kerry O'Brien, said "The results will be unsurprising to sportspeople or the alcohol industry, but we wondered whether the financial resources provided from non-alcohol industry sponsors might also increase drinking through the simple provision of additional funds for young sportspeople to spend on alcohol. It didn't. It seems specific to alcohol industry sponsorship."

Figures from marketing analysts suggest that major alcohol companies spend up to 80 per cent of advertising and sponsorship budgets promoting alcohol via sports.

"Sport is being misused to promote alcohol to sportspeople and the general population. The public do not need more encouragement to drink, and there are ways of replacing alcohol advertising and sponsorship dollars in sport," Dr O'Brien said.

"Much like was done with tobacco, a proportion of the excise duty currently gathered by governments from alcohol sales could be ring fenced (hypothecated) for funding sport and cultural events. This would replace alcohol industry funding many times over," Dr O'Brien said.

Norway and France have had longstanding bans in place with little apparent effect on sport, and this year Turkey banned all alcohol advertising and sponsorship of sport. France successfully hosted the 1998 FIFA World Cup with their alcohol sponsorship and advertising ban in place, and currently host the multi-nation Heineken Cup Rugby competition, renamed the H-Cup in France.

"The Australian Federal government is taking promising steps in allocating $25 million to a trial program replacing alcohol industry sponsorship of community sports and cultural events, but it can be expanded considerably, and could be funded by alcohol excise duty." Dr O'Brien said.