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Politics

Apr 28, 2008

Alcohol ads, or cricket for the disabled: you decide

Australia's major sporting codes are trying to intimidate the Senate into rejecting Family First’s Alcohol Toll Reduction Bill, writes Geoff Munro of the Community Alcohol Action Network.

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The Coalition of Major Professional Sports (COMPS) is trying to intimidate the Senate into rejecting Family First’s Alcohol Toll Reduction Bill. The sports coalition claims the Bill would force sports to cut funding for female, indigenous, and disabled people’s sport.

COMPS represents four football codes (Australian Football League, National Rugby League, Australian Rugby Union, Football Federation Australia), Cricket Australia, Tennis Australia, golf (PGA Tour Australasia), horse racing (Victoria Racing Club) and motor car racing (V8 Supercars Australia).

The provisions of the Bill are relatively mild – it would ordain health warnings on alcohol labels, vetting of alcohol advertising by a government panel and extend the period in which alcohol advertising is banned from television by 30 minutes, from 5am-8.30pm to 5am-9pm.

The last objective has thrown big sport into a spin because it fears it would prevent the alcohol sponsorship of televised sport. It says the loss of alcohol sponsors would reduce earnings from broadcasters who depend on advertising revenue, and that would affect the amount they would pay for TV rights. It is at least debatable whether revenue would be lower, or by how much, and COMPS prefers making assertions to providing evidence.

But in a breathtaking dummy spit, “major professional sports” threaten to recover “lost” revenue by hitting the punter at the gate with higher ticket prices and cutting funding to female, indigenous and disabled sport.

COMPS’ submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Bill states “…any reduction to consolidated revenues directly impacts the ability of sporting organisations to directly invest in a range of programs – particularly in the areas of sport participation and broader community initiatives…sport plays an important part…providing opportunities for indigenous Australians and access to programs for people with disabilities.” 

Cricket Australia was even blunter: “The bill would affect our ability to deliver indigenous, women’s and disability programs.”

If professional sports earn less revenue it would seem sensible and fair to reduce payouts to the people who are paid to play them. That tends to be the way of the world. COMPS’ members could say: “The bill would affect our ability to fund the players’ salaries at current levels, and we will have to trim them.” But COMPS plays hardball. So the salaries of elite players – who are handsomely paid by community standards – and the top prize money for major competitions, are sacrosanct; while low paid, even unpaid, players and the most marginalized, will be cut loose.

What happens to Cricket Australia’s “cricket family”? “You’re part of our family as long as you’re not black, disabled or female?” That should go down a treat.

Do we really believe the AFL, which boasts its racial vilification policy changed race relations in this country, is going to cut funding to indigenous footy? When 10% of AFL players are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders?

The public hearings begin in a fortnight and it should be worth going along to see someone present COMPS’ submission in person. How will they put a positive spin on Cricket Australia chopping the disabled out of the game? It doesn’t say much for COMPS’ political skills if it thinks it can hold Parliament responsible for its decision to withdraw funding from marginalised sportsmen and women. But the most significant revelation is the failure of Australian sport to mount a cogent argument in favour of Alcorp’s sponsorships when it counts. If it depends on the case put by COMPS, it’s a matter of “last drinks, gents”. 

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