On Sunday Australia’s one-day cricket team secured the ultimate prize: the 2015 ICC World Cricket Cup.
The morning after, the Aussie team’s cup should be brimming with accolades and congratulations for their on-field dominance over New Zealand, but instead the cup runneth over with alcohol and well-deserved criticism.
Our children … deserve to be inspired by sporting role models who are more than walking, talking alcohol billboards.”
For that, Cricket Australia, members of the Australian Cricket Team and Channel Nine have no one to blame but themselves.
Forty-six games, 14 nations, the world’s best limited overs cricketers playing before a global audience of more than a billion people. A record crowd of 93,013 fans crammed into the MCG for the final game, with millions more Australian cricket fans cheering home their team in front of the telly.
Our Australian team dominated the New Zealanders, first with the ball and then with the bat.
Having lifted the trophy, having taken on the best in the world and won, what question gets asked of our Australian cricketing elite, our sporting heroes, our children’s role models?
Speaking post-match with members of the Australian team, cricketing legend and Channel Nine commentator Shane Warne could seemingly think of only one: asking wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, “Are you feeling thirsty?” and then targeting batsman Steve Smith with the same line of questioning. To Shane Watson and Josh Hazlewood, Warne asked, “So what’s the plan – besides lots of drink and that. How long is that going to last. Just one night, two nights?”
But it wasn’t just Warne.
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin went one better, offering to have a drink with everyone present at the MCG.
We’re right to be disappointed, but we shouldn’t be surprised.
Not from a sport that worships at the feet of big alcohol.
Not from a sport that accepts millions of dollars from a leading brewer for the honour of wearing its logo on their shirts.
Alcohol companies advertise during sporting events, and sponsor sports and teams so as to link sporting success with alcohol and to reach our children, the next generation of potential drinkers.
And they do it very successfully.
We know that the earlier children are exposed to alcohol advertising the more likely they are to commence drinking early and to drink to excess.
Our children deserve better.
They deserve to aspire to stand on a podium that’s not soaked with alcohol and emblazoned with alcohol logos.
They deserve to be inspired by sporting role models who are more than walking, talking alcohol billboards.
If there’s some comfort to be had it is that drinking to excess is no longer considered an acceptable badge of honour by the entire population. As a nation, we are now questioning the role of the alcohol industry, our sporting competitions and the media in perpetuating this negative and harmful behaviour.
It’s timely too that this discussion is happening, because at this very moment, Free TV Australia are trying to extend the time at which alcohol advertising will be allowed on TV and to allow advertising during even more sport, a move worth tens of millions of dollars to commercial television, but one very detrimental to the health of the nation.
Such a move runs counter to the wishes of a majority of Australians who recognise that alcohol advertising influences young people and want the loophole closed that currently allows alcohol advertising to be broadcast before 8:30pm during sporting broadcasts on weekends and public holidays as was the case during yesterday’s cricket broadcast.
I hope the strong reaction against Warne’s predictable antics makes clear to sport administrators and those responsible in Government that it is time to roll back Australia’s toxic drinking culture.
This post originally appeared in The Age as “ICC Cricket World Cup: Alcohol-drenched culture a big disappointment“.