I love a beer.

I have a fridge full of the stuff out the back of my house. All sorts of fancy craft brews made by serious young men with ridiculous beards.

So don't get me wrong. I'm not setting up a chapter of the Temperance Union. Maybe a Beards Anonymous group ( these guys need serious help) but I'm ok with the demon drink.

Sad to say though, I agree with Jeff Kennett. (These are words I never thought I'd say.)

We have a problem with booze

Australian sport is drowning in it and the money it pours into the games we love.

It's just not cricket..  

It's just not cricket..  

The AFL, NRL and Cricket Australia (amongst others) know this, but they won't stare the problem down whilst Big Booze is paying the bills.

Take a look across any of the websites run by Australia's biggest sporting codes and you will find Big Booze branding at every turn.

The AFL has had a long association with Carlton & United.  

The NRL has a tab running with both VB and Wild Turkey. Cricket Australia is swimming in it with VB, Carlton Mid-Strength and Hardy's (the winemaker) as partners.

Is it drinking game or a League match?? Hard to tell....

Is it drinking game or a League match?? Hard to tell....

It seems we can't have professional sport without having a drink as well.

That's a choice we should be free to make. Drinking responsibly is one of the social and cultural  norms many of us indulge in regularly. 

Except we don't. Not enough of us. Not often enough. 

Big Booze has always been part of our sporting landscape.

 Like tobacco, as we wake up to the enormous damage it is doing to people and communities, our major sports organisations will have to confront an ugly truth they've so far dodged like Billy Slater escaping a front rower's tackle.

The cost to our health is enormous. The impost on our law enforcement, emergency services and health system is ridiculous.

Sport loves a stat so here are a few.

Alcohol is second only to tobacco as a preventable cause of drug-related death and hospitalisation.

It accounts for 13% of all deaths among Australians aged 14-17. 

The grog is involved in up to half of all violent crime, including domestic violence.

The stuff wreaks havoc. 

And it's not as though the big codes don't know about it. Any other week they're dealing with young footballers making poor choices and finding big trouble after one too many.

Yet our sports organisations have cosy codependent relationship with Big Booze. The truth is, one can't live without the other. One delivers the cash, the other the customer. 

It's too perfect.

Which makes it doubly difficult for sport to say no to a drink.

Even at local level, clubs depend on a thriving bar to fill cash registers and get their teams out on the park at weekends. It's here that young men are often introduced to booze, taught it's rituals and learn to associate it with their masculinity.

There are initiatives designed to ween grass roots sport off the grog and they're changing the face of local clubs.

It's proof that there is sport after booze. 

Kennett is right when he talks about the grog being the problem that dare not speak its name. 

If our major sports want to reach for an ideal of themselves offering a healthy, vibrant lifestyle built on the foundations of rich, inclusive communities then they need to man up when it comes to Big Booze.

Right now they're walking both sides of the street.

And the message is being lost in the middle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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