When a drunken Brendan Fevola disgraced himself at last year's Brownlow Medal night, the football community tut-tutted. But the AFL did not do the one thing it needed to do. It did not immediately stop sponsorship of the sport by large alcohol companies.
It was just one more in a string of scandals involving players and alcohol - to say nothing of the problems of fans and alcohol.
Last year the National Preventative Health Taskforce suggested banning alcohol sponsorship of sport, but the AFL was quick to protest. AFL boss Andrew Demetriou said such a ban would "cripple football".
The AFL lists as a Corporate Partner Fosters - the brewing group that makes beers like Carlton Draught and Victoria Bitter, as well as Wolf Blass wines. Individual clubs have other alcohol corporations as sponsors.
Sport is about healthy bodies in the peak of condition - something to which alcohol is anathema. When a brewing giant contributes money to a sport like the AFL, it doesn't do so in order to help sport. It does so to sell its product and return profits to shareholders. The lives damaged by excessive consumption of that product are not its concern.
It is extraordinary that the Melbourne Cup includes as its sponsors:
The marketing hype of bubbly, celebratory drinks hides the real ugliness of excessive drinking done at the profit of these sponsors. Check out these photos from Crikey - taken at Flemington on the afternoon of last year's Melbourne Cup.
We have a major problem with alcohol in Australia.
Alcohol-fuelled violence, binge drinking, and health problems are the product of an increasingly ugly alcohol culture, which the alcohol industry feeds for its profits. The rest of us pay for the harm caused by alcohol excess.
Wise leadership requires us to take steps to minimize this harm. Just as with tobacco, we should not permit any advertizing by the alcohol industry, but let's start by banning the bizarre sponsorship of sport by these socially harmful products.
- Sporting Groups cry foul over alcohol sponsorship ban
- Preventing alcohol-related harm in Australia: a window of opportunity - National Preventative Health Taskforce