Australian Sports Leagues Speak Out Against Alcohol Advertising Ban

By Britni de la Cretaz 12/01/17

A proposal that aims to reduce alcohol consumption in South Wales is being met with pushback by the leagues who stand to lose financially if it becomes law.

Australian soccer player celebrates in the stadium

A new bill banning alcohol advertising in New South Wales has been proposed, and sports leagues are not happy about it. They are speaking out against the bill, claiming that it will have a negative effect on the clubs’ revenue.

The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) is made up of the major Australian professional sports organizations—the Australian Football League (AFL), Rugby Australia (ARU), Cricket Australia (CA), Football Federation Australia (FFA), National Rugby League (NRL), Netball Australia (NA), and Tennis Australia. The group has been vocally opposed to the bill, in contrast with the country’s major health and medical groups.

"The proposed amendments mean that a significant amount of advertising revenue would be denied to broadcasters," COMPSS said in its statement against the bill. The alcohol industry is “one of the major funders of sport in Australia,” the statement reads.

Aside from NA, media rights are the main source of revenue for sports leagues in the country, and the new bill would make it an offense for anyone to “derive a benefit (directly or indirectly) from displaying an alcohol advertisement” or to “broadcast an alcohol advertisement.” 

COMPPS argues that banning alcohol advertising would therefore be a major blow to the professional sports leagues’ abilities to make money and sustain themselves. They have proposed a desire to help implement programs about responsible drinking and to help combat the issue of alcohol misuse and addiction, but requested that the scope of the bill be narrowed.

Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile MLC of the Christian Democratic Party says the proposal could help promote a healthier lifestyle by “prohibiting advertising and other promotional activities aimed at assisting the sale of alcoholic beverages, and consequently reducing the incentive for people to consume alcohol.”

Nile, who is helping conduct an inquiry into the proposal, added, “Alcohol is Australia’s number one social problem. This is a very important issue and I’m pleased that the Legislative Council has referred the Bill to this committee for inquiry and examination.”

This is not the first time major sports leagues have had to grapple with the issue of alcohol. The FIFA World Cup has come up against varying alcohol regulations in the different countries where the event is held. In Brazil, consuming alcoholic beverages inside sports stadiums is usually prohibited, but that ban was waived during the 2014 World Cup. As a result, there were a bevy of alcohol-related incidents of chaos and violence.

The 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar, where alcohol consumption is prohibited in public spaces. This time, however, FIFA plans to abide by the country’s laws during the tournament.

Earlier this year, public health experts called for a ban on alcohol advertising in the United Kingdom, with the chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance telling The Guardian that “alcohol marketing contains content and messages that appeal to children, and that due to exposure to this advertising, children drink more, and start drinking at an earlier age.” This was despite the fact that recent research had shown fairly low numbers of teenagers drinking alcohol.

Just last month, the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) banned alcohol advertising on subway cars and stations and buses in New York City.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.