OPINION: MELANIE WHELAN
WESTERN Bulldogs captain Easton Wood is right: our conversations need to shift back to our love for the game rather than the odds of play.
When did our post-game talk and debate become so drenched in terms of monetary value and fantasy team points?
When a player like Wood says he is increasingly concerned schoolyard chat has turned from ‘who are you barracking for’ to ‘who’s the favourite’, then we need to take note. We need to draw a line on what we are consuming with our game.
This is not about turning all nanny-state in our football consumption. This is about starting to tackle a complex social issue that, especially when it comes to juniors, is far too normalised.
It is the same with alcohol advertising in sport. AFL grand final coverage last year saturated viewers with 118 cases of alcohol spruicking in 161 minutes of game time, including analysis during quarter and half-time breaks – all during children’s viewing hours. In the NRL grand final a day later, this rate was three times higher.
At the grassroots, senior teams across many codes have barely won a flag or title before stubbies are shoved into hands or champagne is sprayed.
AFL premiership player and coach Michael Malthouse, who hails from Ballarat, is backing a national lifetime ban on alcohol advertising in sport. Malthouse says children should be able to watch sport and identify with just sport, not advertising that can be detrimental to their health.
Public health professor Rob Moodie, a former chairman for NRL club Melbourne Storm said sport was helping to make unhealthy alcohol consumption a natural part of sport: “The kings of Australian sport have become the ambassadors for booze and that’s not a good thing for our kids.”
And this is where Wood finds he has a platform to spark conversation and make a difference when it comes to sports gambling.
We look to players like Wood as superheroes (not just in Thor-inspired jumpers). AFL players are influential role models for our children.
Wood created a stir when speaking our publicly on the hypocrisy of betting agency advertising in the AFL after a mandatory education session for all staff and players on the dangers of gambling.
Players benefit from money such sponsorship pours into the league, but they are also walking billboards for odds: first goal, disposals, Brownlow winners.
Here’s an “odd” from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation: teenagers are five times more likely than adults to experience gambling-related harm. Three in four children as young as eight think sports betting is normal rather than an extra to the game.
Instantaneous betting via smart phones and live odds through the game - often announced with the same normalcy as a weather report - is a far way from the days of smoky adults-only TAB joints or trackside betting rings.
We need to evolve and change too. We need to seriously take action on what messages are really okay to be putting out to impressionable children, no matter how normal we as adults think it might be.
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