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Unhealthy sponsorship promotion still prevalent across AFL

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Australian football fans are being inundated with advertising of alcohol, junk food and gambling through Australian Football League (AFL) sponsorship deals, a review by the Curtin University based-Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA (PHAIWA) has found.

PHAIWA analysed sponsorship deals for all 18 AFL clubs and found that 17 clubs had at least one unhealthy sponsor such as junk food, alcohol or gambling, with five teams having an unhealthy sponsor on their playing uniform.

Ms Ainslie Sartori, from PHAIWA, said the Adelaide Crows had the highest number of unhealthy sponsors in the 2018 playing season, followed closely by the West Coast Eagles, the Brisbane Lions, and the Fremantle Dockers.

“By conducting the review, we aimed to assess the presence of unhealthy sponsorship in each club within the AFL by using a traffic light system to categorise sponsors based on the nutritional content of the products they promote, and their association with other unhealthy commodities such as alcohol and gambling,” Ms Sartori said.

“We categorised sponsors as either red, amber or green, depending on how much fat, sugar and salt was included in the advertised product, and found that the majority of the AFL clubs were sponsored by at least one red sponsor.

“The results raise public health concerns, as junk foods contain excessive amounts of saturated fat, sodium and sugar, and consumption of these foods is linked to an increased risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.”

PHAIWA Director Dr Melissa Stoneham said the AFL was dominated by unhealthy advertising and sponsorship, adding previous research had shown children were often the target of this form of advertising.

“We found that more clubs are being sponsored by alcohol, fast food and sugary drinks in 2018, compared to the 2017 season. The results highlight an alarming trend that is growing within the sporting community, which is watched closely by young children,” Dr Stoneham said.

“The Richmond Football Club was the only team to have zero red or amber sponsors during 2018. Although it is positive to see some teams have healthy sponsorships, the widespread nature of unhealthy sponsorships across the AFL is concerning.

“We would like to see health policy makers consider strategies to address this issue and work with the AFL clubs to reinforce healthy lifestyle choices by shifting the focus away from the visual presence of unhealthy sponsorship.”

Cancer Council WA’s LiveLighter Nutrition and Physical Activity Manager Steve Pratt said that with more than a million Australian children now overweight or obese, AFL clubs needed to rethink where sponsorship was sourced from.

“Australia is in the midst of a childhood obesity epidemic that threatens our population’s welfare. Children are being bombarded with unhealthy food marketing and we need to stop to think if aligning sport and junk food is helping our kids or undermining healthy choices,” Mr Pratt said.

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