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Cricket, grog and junk food: A recipe for obesity

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The Australian Cricket Team has an official beer partner (screen shot via YouTube).

As Australia's obesity rate balloons, Australian cricket continues to be sponsored by alcohol and fast food organisations, writes John Menadue.

OVER THE HOLIDAYS, I have very much enjoyed watching on television Australia winning the Ashes series, although they seem to be exhausted after the celebrations and are performing poorly in the ODI series.

The visual TV coverage on Channel 9 is outstanding. The camera crews do a great job.

I enhance my enjoyment by minimising the audio content. Except for the opening and closing of each session and at the fall of each wicket, I keep my TV console on mute. Channel 9 is destroying a well-earned cricket legacy. Perhaps the loss of Richie Benaud was the beginning of the end.

But that is the good news. Unfortunately, I can’t get away from the almost saturation picture coverage of junk food (KFC) and alcohol (XXXX and Canadian Club). Last year, it was Victorian Bitter and BWS (Beer, Wine and Spirits). 

The Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) identified curbing alcohol use, tobacco use and obesity as the top three priority areas in preventive health. ANPHA considered that these three health risks accounted for 40 per cent of potentially preventable hospitalisations.

In addition to their saturated fats, KFC gives saturated television advertising — KFC classic catches, Australian burgers, KFC trivia, bucket-heads and a lot more. Yet the National Health Reporting Authority for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) reported that our obesity rate had ballooned to 28 per cent — with almost 11 million Australians classified as overweight or obese. Obesity is growing at an alarming rate and fast food is one of the contributing factors.

It is hard to miss the seeming unending coverage of alcohol advertisements or promotion — on the sight-screens and on the scoreboards. Yet only about a kilometre away from the Sydney Cricket Ground, innocent people, police and hospital workers were battling alcohol-fuelled violence. The alcohol and hotel industry has enormous political clout — and not just among politicians.

Australian cricket also willingly plays their game. Stephen Smith may be a great batsman, but his naivety often shows. Last year, he told us the Australian Cricket Team was not promoting alcohol at all. It was only promoting brands — the same lame defence that used to be made by Big Tobacco.

The Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice does not allow alcohol advertising before 8.30pm in order to protect children. But, by sleight of hand, the alcohol industry is able to advertise any time of the day provided it is part of a live sporting event.

In the 1980s, the tobacco industry through Rothmans, Winfield and others fought a rear-guard action to continue advertising in association with sporting events. They used the hoary argument that if a product was legal it should also be possible to advertise it. In the end, they had to withdraw from all advertising associated with sporting events. The same should happen to the junk food and alcohol industries. But who will challenge their enormous political and business power?

In the meantime, Channel 9, Cricket Australia, and players fill their pockets with the revenue derived from the advertising and promotion of dangerous products. That sounds to me like living off immoral earnings.

This article was originally published on John Menadue's blog 'Pearls and Irritations'John Menadue is a commentator, businessman and former diplomat. You can follow John on Twitter @johnmenadue.

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