Case for Change

Participation in sport is very popular in New Zealand, across all ages. Some people play sport, others volunteer as coaches, trainers, etc.

The importance of sport in the culture of New Zealand highlights the role of clubs in providing a healthy environment, especially for children and young people.

Sport is a primary vehicle for the promotion of alcohol in New Zealand. Many professional teams in New Zealand are sponsored by alcohol companies.

Players who receive alcohol sponsorship are more likely to drink heavily. 

Many clubs in New Zealand are licensed to sell alcohol; the management of alcohol in these settings needs extra care given the presence of young people.

Sports clubs can take important action to reduce harm to their participants, but also help to change the wider drinking culture.

Participation in sport is popular

In a large survey of New Zealand adults in 2015, 4 out of 10 (44.4%) persons reported that they were members of one or more clubs, gyms or recreational centres. Almost 1,000,000 adults volunteered in sport and recreation, and over one in ten adults took on the role of a coach / trainer /teacher / instructor.

In a 2011 survey of New Zealand children and adolescents (5-18 years), 60% of boys and 50% of girls belonged to a sports club. Four out of every ten volunteered in sports activities. 

In relation to 15-18 year olds, 51% of boys and 47% of girls belonged to a sport club in the past year.

The importance of sport in the culture of New Zealand highlights the role of clubs in providing a health-promoting setting. The importance of sports clubs as a setting to reduce alcohol consumption is highlighted in the World Health Organisation Global Alcohol Strategy

Relationship between sport and heavy drinking

Many adults who are involved in sport, whether participants or spectators, are heavy drinkers. Among sportspeople, heavy drinking is also associated with other risky behaviours such as drink-driving, unprotected and unplanned sex and antisocial behaviour.

A systematic review of sponsorship studies found that all studies reported positive associations between exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship and self-reported alcohol consumption, but the statistical significance of results varied. Two studies found indirect exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship was associated with increased levels of drinking amongst schoolchildren, and five studies found a positive association between direct alcohol sports sponsorship and hazardous drinking amongst adult sportspeople.

The relationship between heavy alcohol use and sports participation is complex. As mentioned in the Advertising and Sponsorship section, sport is a primary vehicle for the promotion of alcohol in New Zealand.

Relationship between alcohol sports sponsorship and heavy drinking 

Alcohol industry sports sponsorship has been shown to play a role in increasing binge drinking among those who participate in sport clubs/events.

In a study of New Zealand sportspeople, 48% reported that they received sponsorship from an alcohol sponsor and 47% indicated that they received free and/or discounted alcohol products. New Zealand players who received sponsorship at the individual, team and/or club level were found to be more likely to drink hazardously than those who do not receive sponsorship. In particular, those who received free and/or discounted alcohol and/or felt that they should go to the sponsor's pub/club to drink were also more likely to drink hazardously. These results have also been found in Australia, whereby sports players who receive sponsorship were found to be more likely to be hazardous drinkers than those who did not.

Sponsorship in sports clubs may take several forms:

  • Sponsors can place alcohol advertising on sports people's clothing, clubrooms, websites, etc;
  • Sponsors can negotiate sole pourage and/or brand rights for a sports club;
  • Sponsored sportspeople may feel a duty to visit the sponsor's’ establishment with friends and supporters after games or practices, and/or drink the sponsor’s products.

Clubs as a supplier of alcohol

Many sports clubs have a liquor licence.  As such, as a licensed premises they also present a risk for alcohol-related harm. Rather than being a place to promote health and wellbeing, a sports club may present a risk for hazardous drinking. In a New Zealand study of Pacific adolescent drinkers, participating in a sports team or sports club outside of school was found to increase the likelihood that an adolescent reported binge drinking.

Sports clubs can reduce the risk of hazardous drinking by its members if they:

  • Prohibit free or cheap alcohol promotions (e.g. happy hour promotions)
  • Prohibit drinking games
  • Prohibit the sale of alcohol via roaming sale in stands
  • Restrict/cease alcohol-related sponsorship

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