Booze, fast food and gambling dominate Aussie sport

Alcohol, gambling and fast food and drink sponsors are prolific across Australian sporting codes, with new research revealing nearly three quarters of national and state government funded sporting bodies are sponsored by companies promoting harmful products.

Unhealthy food and drink sponsors were the most prevalent, sponsoring nearly 50 per cent of Australian peak sporting bodies, followed by alcohol and then gambling industries.

The research, presented for the first time at Sports Medicine Australia’s be active 2014 conference, highlights the extent of Australian children’s exposure to these harmful messages via national and state/territory sport websites.

Ms Rona Macniven of the Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney said linking unhealthy brands with the positive aspects of sport significantly undermines the health benefits of sport and exposes children to negatively influential messages.

“Associating these harmful products with positive aspects of sport normalises associated activities such as gambling, drinking alcohol and consuming fast food and sugary drinks,” Ms Macniven said.

“Our research revealed a pervasive level of unhealthy sponsorship across our sporting codes.

“Cricket, both rugby codes, Australia Football, Basketball and Soccer all had sponsorship agreements across all three unhealthy categories – alcohol, fast food and sugary drinks and gambling – with Cricket taking the prize for the overall highest proportion of unhealthy sponsors.

“Despite these concerning results, it was encouraging to see that there were 14 sports that remained free from unhealthy product branding – this shows it is possible for sports organisations to survive without relying on unhealthy and harmful sponsors.”

Ms Macniven called for greater consistency in aligning sport related policies with health policy.

“We need to see this level of exposure to unhealthy messages through sport reduced – particularly among Australian children – through regulatory guidelines or policy to limit unhealthy sponsorship,” Ms Macniven said.

“Action is needed to raise awareness among athletes and the sport sector more broadly about the potential impacts of unhealthy sponsorship, and encourage them to take a strong stand against unhealthy sponsorship practice.”

The research, Unhealthy product sponsorship of Australian national and state sports organisations, assessed the nature and extent of unhealthy food and beverage, alcohol and gambling sponsorship across government funded Australian national, state and territory level sports bodies through a comprehensive audit of their websites.

For more information on be active 2014 (15 – 18 October, Canberra): www.beactive2014.org

For media passes, media interviews and access to research abstracts:

Georgia Brumby, National Media Manager: 03 9674 8703 / 0401 097 176

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