JOHN MENADUE. Cricket – alcohol and junk food.

Dec 28, 2016

Cricket has a dangerous relationship with alcohol and junk food.  

I am not quite a ‘cricket tragic’ but I enjoy watching cricket on TV, with the audio turned off to avoid mostly unprofessional commentary. Occasionally I get to the ground but it is very expensive- $163 for a seat at the Sydney Test next month!

But my frustration is increasing because I can’t avoid the wall-to-wall coverage on TV of alcohol advertisements. particularly VB, and junk food advertisements by KFC and McDonalds.

Asked last year about the massive sponsorship of alcohol at cricket events, Steve Smith, our captain, said that it was not advertising alcohol, ‘it is advertising a brand’. Well there you have it. A mind determined to avoid the obvious. Perhaps his manager told him to say that.

This year and after the disastrous result in the Hobart Test against South Africa, the same Steve Smith said that the Australian team ‘had lost pride in the baggy green’. But again determined to avoid the obvious he said this while wearing a sponsor’s cap. How seriously should we take his comments about the tradition and value of the ‘baggy green’ when he discards the ‘baggy green’ as fast as he can so that TV viewers could see the sponsor’s logo?

Health experts continually warn us about the damage that alcohol causes in the community and particularly amongst young people. The national cost of alcohol is estimated to be over $36 billion p.a. And the damage goes far beyond just those who drink alcohol to excess. About 30% of child abuse stems from excessive drinking alcohol by adults. Alcohol has profound consequences that go far beyond the drinker.

Yet we have this wall-to-wall coverage of alcohol during televised cricket when hundreds of thousands of young people are viewing. Under a voluntary code that the TV companies espouse, there is a prohibition on the advertising of alcohol directed to young people. But this code is breached by a decision that the code does not apply to the televising of sport. The code does not protect children from massive and harmful advertising. The code is a ‘fig leaf’.

France has a passion for alcohol, but it has banned alcohol sponsorship, advertising in cinemas and on TV.

Our cricketers and other sports people like to think that they are role models. But how much do they really care with so much of their incomes being derived from the advertising of very unhealthy products.

Gideon Haigh is correct when he says that ‘Cricket Australia is a financial entity with commercial instincts driven by an accountant…Some times it is difficult to work out whether CA sees cricket as anything other than a market waiting to be monetised ‘.

In taking commercialism to a new level CA is very dependent just not on alcohol but fast food advertising – again directed to young people.

Our obesity rates are rising dramatically. We know that about 40% of children and young people’s energy comes from junk food. Those young people are very responsive to marketing. It is estimated that two thirds of food marketing during popular viewing times like cricket and football, are for unhealthy products.

The AMA has called for strong action to contain the damaging consequences of junk food. In a statement on obesity in 2016, AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, highlighted obesity as the biggest public health challenge facing the Australian population. It affects more than 60% of Australian adults who are deemed to be over weight or obese. The AMA called on the Federal Government to impose stronger control on junk food advertising.

Our cricketers earn a lot of money as a result of the rivers of gold from product sponsors and contracts with CA. In 2014 David Warner earned $3.8 million, Steve Smith $3.1 million and Mitchell Stark $2.2 million. It would be significantly higher in 2016.

But how much do our well-paid cricketers put back into the game? When Philip Hughes died in a tragic accident in 2014, there was widespread grief shown by the cricketers – kissing the turf, pointing to the heavens,, bats around the fence, and Hughes’ number 408 painted on the grounds. Yet there was no action for example to set up a foundation in his name to help support young country and indigenous cricketers. Our well-paid cricketers kept their hands in their very deep pockets.

Why is it that the AFL is so successful in promoting indigenous footballers but CA fails dismally to promote indigenous cricketers?

For the rest of the cricket season we are going to be overwhelmed by VB and KFC, whether we watch on TV or attend the game. We are likely to see the VB logo emblazoned on the cricketers’ shirts. They should be relieved to know that their captain says that they are only advertising a brand and not alcohol.

Supported by CA, advertising of harmful products and Channel 9 our elite sportsmen are filling their pockets. In the process they are causing very serious harm to the health and well being of many Australians.

Forget being role models and putting the game first.

See also ‘Ian Webster. Alcohol-drenched cricket’ and ‘John Menadue. The Ugly Australians’. And Toby Hall, Cricket has a dangerous relationship with alcohol.

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