The risky drinking culture of Aussie sports 

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It’s complicated – that’s how many Australian’s describe their relationship between alcohol and sporting events. But others believe it’s time to call last drinks on the excessive supply and selling of alcohol to spectators and patrons, empowering them to say ‘no thanks’ with support.  

Increasing public interest has focused on problematic alcohol consumption, binge drinking and the link with aggression at large scale public social such as sporting events.  

VicHealth are amongst many organisations who have supported research to assess the concerns and impacts 

‘Consuming alcohol in Australia is enmeshed with celebration and cultural traditions. There are certain expectations on how people should behave in certain social settings (particularly for young people), and this can involve the expectation of consuming a certain amount of alcohol.’

And it’s not just the events serving alcohol that raise eyebrows. It’s also the heroes we come to see, and how they respond.  

Experts agree that the problems also arise when the spotlight shines on athletes involved in alcohol-related incidents. Our newspapers frequently report on police investigations and court proceedings for alcohol fuelled altercations amongst sport stars. 

Research indicates that drinking is unquestionably harmful to athletes themselves. 

Sports Dietitian at the Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in Murray, Utah, Claire Siekaniec collected research and studies on the effect of alcohol consumption, prior and after sports ‘Although alcohol may have been viewed as an ergogenic aid in the past (likely for psychological reasons), the scientific evidence shows that alcohol hinders athletic performance, and ingestion prior to training or competition should be avoided’ 

Siekaniec observed that the effects of alcohol on athletes varies on consumption level, physical nature of the athletes and other relevant demographic variables, but consumption of alcohol for athletes must be avoided. 

‘The cumulative effects of binge drinking episodes may leave an athlete unable to perform at the expected or desired level.’ 

However, it’s not always sporting alcohol altercations that capture national interest.  

At the 2022 Australian Tennis Open, recently retired professional tennis player crowned Grand Slam Tennis champion, Ash Barty was handed a beer in a post match interview after being crowned Grand Slam Tennis Champion and public debate erupted.  

The tennis champion took one sip of beer during the celebratory interview before placing it down on a desk. The Alcohol and Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) dismissed complaints, responding that Ash Barty ‘was clearly a moderate and responsible consumer of alcohol,’ 

However, Barty’s post-match sip of beer drew criticism from many on social media and broadcast talk-back who worried that the offering of alcohol perpetuates its necessity at major events.   

Channel 9 television host James Mathison was one of many to called out his very own Network for its ‘glamorisation’ of alcohol after the Australian Open televised incident.   

The former Australian Idol presenter James Mathison had a problem with the act and described Australia’s relationship with alcohol as ‘bizarre’. 

‘Our glorification and glamorisation of alcohol in this country is normalised to the point where we can’t even celebrate success without booze on live TV’, he shared in a tweet that gained much agreement 

 

Our embedded drinking culture

An international study found that Australian’s have been names some of the heaviest drinker’s in the world  

Joyful Sober Youtuber Allison Lassick  agrees, saying that ‘The Australian drinking culture is so embedded that people might not even realise the risks.’

She recently interviewed Hello Sunday Morning’s CEO Andy Moore who said that ‘the peer pressure of alcohol consumption combined with coming up against a billion dollar industry whose business model is based on customers means there’s a real conflict in how we manage alcohol as a community’

Does alcohol belong in our sporting events?

There’s no denying that alcohol has long been a form of coping, commiserating or celebrating in our culture. Especially at big gatherings and in sporting moments in history. 

One of the more famous scenes in our popular culture is of then Prime Minister Bob Hawke after Australia won the America’s Cup in 1982. His colourful quote ‘Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum’ was delivered amid champagne-soaked celebrations in a cheering crowd. 

But, as we grow and mature as event managers and broadcasters of events, our management of alcohol and its presence is becoming increasingly reassessed and part of an emergent sober celebration culture. 

An uneasy conversation brings a shift

A quick Google will highlight the numerous articles on this conversation, and media opinions in the aftermath of the Ash Barty beer handover. 

But this is a good sign. Australian’s are paying attention and willing to enter into discussion. That’s much better than the issue not being challenged, or mentioned at all.  

Society feels more confident in adding an informed voice to questioning the status quo and transforming our drinking culture.  

 

Interested in reading more? You may find these articles of interest:  

https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/-/media/FundingOpportunities/Alcohol-Cultures/Rural-and-regional.pdf?la=en&hash=53A78AD6AA6B91EF4407A741DC579D7A6ABCE014  

Further reports to shed more light on youth drinking https://fare.org.au/driven-to-drink-australian-first-study-sheds-more-light-on-factors-influencing-youth-drinking/ 

 

We’d love to continue this conversation – share your thoughts in our blog comments below. 

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  • Thanks for the article – the perception adds a lot of pressure on those looking to cut alcohol out of their lives. It has made me reluctant to go to live sport events – mainly to avoid the pressure of drinking. It is especially apparent amongst men who tend to use these events as a reason to overindulge. The recent NRL event in Brisbane showed the consequences of the problem of excessive drinking at these events with crowd fighting making news headlines. Why would someone who is avoiding alcohol even consider going to such a boozed up event? Worth discussing more I reckon.

    By RS22
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    May 21, 2022
  • 1983 is when Bob Hawke was elected Prime Minister and made that quote btw not 1982. I actually didn’t mind Ash being given beer after winning the Aus Open I think we lose supporters of those of us that have had to give up the drink when we start criticising other people for having a drink

    By Robbie Moore
    |
    May 22, 2022
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