The Sydney to London herbal tea-drinking record
It is always shocking to see victorious Grand Prix drivers spraying each other with champagne on the podium. Not because it reinforces the link between alcohol and celebration or sends a message to the kiddies that you can’t have a good time without a drink.
It’s troubling because it’s such a terrible waste of quality grog. If someone handed me a bottle of Dom Perignon I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be up-ending it on my mate’s head, unless I’d already had a couple of bottles.
The red and white Marlboro-branded McLarens driven by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost will never be seen again.
The cigarette girls have been banned from the Grand Prix after-parties. In Australia, restrictions on tobacco advertising are so strict that there is even a statutory prohibition against running old footage of cigarette commercials –such as Paul Hogan saying “Anyhow….Have a Winfield” – even if it is part of an article such as this one examining policies on the issue.
That is fair enough, even if the ban on old footage seems ludicrously censorious. No-one in their right mind would argue today that tobacco should be advertised, that a sport such as Formula One should be underwritten by Marlboro, that Benson and Hedges should be allowed to sponsor the World Series Cricket.
The science on smoking is conclusive and any attempts to stop more people from getting hooked on the life-ending drug should be supported. But we are now at a point where the health lobby has become so emboldened that it is trying to do to alcohol what it has done to cigarettes, fuelled by its conviction that there is no such thing as safe drinking, that alcohol should never be associated with having fun, that the occasional boozy blowout is not part of life but cause for national alarm.
If alcohol were banned from sports sponsorships the absence of champagne from the Formula One podium would be the least of our worries. It would rip millions out of mainstream sport but, more alarmingly, it would eat away at the financial base and social fabric of community sports.
Anyone who thinks this is an overstatement should look at what is unfolding inside our financially-strapped soccer league, the Football Federation of Australia, which is on the cusp of doing a deal not with the devil but the clean-living angels in the Federal Government who want to treat all of us like little kids.
The FFA is considering an approach from the Federal Government’s National Preventative Health Agency for a $7.5 million major sponsor rights deal with its GoodSports program.
The deal would not just give this anti-alcohol scheme naming rights over soccer in Australia, it would also give it the power to interfere with commercial arrangements which the FFA or individual clubs have put in place, and potentially provide it with policy-making powers over issues such as the service of alcohol at grounds.
For example, one of the immediate effects of the GoodSports deal would be that the FFA would order the Adelaide United club to tear up its pre-existing $300,000 sponsorship deal with the excellent Coopers brewery. If that happened, Adelaide United would attempt – with a solid basis in contract law – to recoup that money from the FFA which in turn would probably seek it from GoodSports to cover the shortfall.
It’s disturbing on two levels, both in policy terms and financial terms. Not only does it extend the powers of Canberra into the worst kind of nanny state interference with our personal choices, it also raises the prospect that taxpayers will have to cover the cost of shredding what are now perfectly legitimate commercial arrangements with law-abiding enterprises such as breweries.
The ramifications for other sports from all this are massive. Tooheys and CUB have historically covered the sponsorship of Rugby League’s State of Origin. Carlton United is synonymous with the AFL. VB has long sponsored cricket’s one-dayers. And so on.
It’s at the local level where things could get more serious as if you’re playing league with your local club in Sydney’s west or Aussie Rules in a Victorian country town, it’s not like you’ve got revenue from TV rights or merchandise to prop up your coffers and subsidise the cost of weekly post-match beers or a pie night.
Which, of course, is entirely the point of the GoodSports program. If these people had their way there would be no weekly post-match beers. Even if your team won the premiership you would probably only be allowed to have a drink with a written permission slip from the Health Minister, and only then no more than 2.5 standard ones. It is all about changing the way Australians behave, framed around their wowserish conviction that alcohol is only ever undesirable.
I’d argue that the feds should probably worry less about people who actually play sport and like to put back a few calories afterwards in the form of VB, and concentrate instead on the many hundreds of thousands who play no sport and still get on the squirt all the time anyway.
The only bit of good news is that GoodSports doesn’t appear to be working very well anyway. The scheme is having trouble weaning community clubs off long-standing relationships with their local pubs and clubs, and in addition, there have been administrative problems with the implementation of the program. Happy days.
It is absurd for the Federal Government to enlist taxpayers to fill the sponsorship shortfall caused by banning the promotion of a product which most taxpayers enjoy. Besides, footy clubs and the people who play form them and support them shouldn’t even be in a position where they have to justify the choices they make.
The smoking model cannot be interchanged with alcohol as the health effects are so vastly different. The fact that some in the health lobby choose to argue against that fact only confirms that they need a new bogey man now that the war against tobacco advertising has been one.
A simple butt out should be all we need to offer by way of a response to their impertinent attempt to control our lives, and perhaps ensure that we produce a generation of sportsmen who go head-to-head on the Sydney to London flight to see how many camomile teas they can drink.
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