Government action is needed to clean up the culture of alcohol in Australian sport, according to West Australian Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan.
A vocal advocate of preventive measures in his home state, Mr O’Callaghan told Fairfax Media that the relationship between sport and alcohol needed to change for the good of young fans.
‘‘Sport is part of our national identity,’’ he said. ‘‘What’s underneath that is alcohol advertising and players behaving badly because of alcohol abuse ... I think all leaders need to think about the messages we need to send to the community, especially young children.’’
Mr O’Callaghan’s comments follow the latest alcohol-fuelled controversy for the Canberra Raiders, whose centre Blake Ferguson has been arrested for indecent assault following a boozy night with former teammate Josh Dugan.
Dugan was fired by the club earlier this year, the fifth alcohol-related sacking in six years for a Raiders player.
Speaking ahead of the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol forum on Wednesday, Mr O’Callaghan said the culture of alcohol was particularly troubling in codes such as rugby league because of its popularity among children.
He said the saturation of alcohol advertising in sport was also concerning and labelled the government’s response to the issue as ‘‘twisted logic’’.
‘‘We’ve seen everyone up in arms about gambling advertising in sport,’’ he said.
‘‘But no police officer has ever been assaulted on the streets because the perpetrator had a gambling addiction. We can’t link 40 per cent of all domestic violence to gambling.’’
Mr O’Callaghan said between players behaving badly and the excess of alcohol advertising, children are receiving mixed messages about the sport and policy reforms need to be made.
‘‘When you see a rugby player make a try, you don’t want that juxtaposed with alcohol,’’ he said.
‘‘If we really want to make a difference, we need to do more than regulate and arrest. We can’t arrest our way out of this problem. We need to change the culture.’’
Mr O’Callaghan will deliver the keynote address at the forum at Parliament House, where there will also be a panel discussion on alcohol issues.