Baseball bans alcohol sponsorship, other sports urged to do likewise
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Baseball bans alcohol sponsorship, other sports urged to do likewise

The NRL and other major codes have been urged to follow the lead of Baseball Australia after it became the first national sporting organisation to ban alcohol sponsorship.

Baseball Australia entered into a three-year partnership with the End Alcohol Advertising in Sport (EAAiS) campaign on Tuesday, effectively ending any promotion of alcohol at representative level and junior competitions. In doing so, it turned its back on a lucrative “second tier” overseas alcohol sponsorship arrangement worth close to six figures - a significant sum for a sport battling to attract corporate dollars in a difficult market.

Strike out: Baseball Australia will end alcohol advertising.

Strike out: Baseball Australia will end alcohol advertising.Credit:ABL Media

The landmark decision doesn’t extend to the operations of the eight independently owned and Australian Baseball League teams competing in the professional domestic competition. However, Baseball Australia CEO Cam Vale said the move showed what the organisation stood for and hoped other major sporting codes would soon follow suit.

“In a lot of ways it’s not a difficult decision to do this as a sport around high performance, junior participation and junior pathways,” Vale said.

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“What are the brands we should be pursuing? Probably not alcohol brands. It’s not easy commercially, but it doesn’t mean you don’t make the difficult decisions.

“There’s no doubt with the increased governance in the last 10 years in relation to alcohol, gambling, drugs, the integrity of sport, it’s important real leadership is shown. I would love to see other sports do it.

Beer we go: Rugby league has long enjoyed sponsorship deals with alcohol brands.

Beer we go: Rugby league has long enjoyed sponsorship deals with alcohol brands.Credit:NRL Photos

“The big three players - the NRL, AFL and cricket - they need to be considering where this sits in their portfolios. They are big brands with great ability to attract sponsorship. It’s a tough call to turn your back on a big or long-standing partner, but leadership is about making the tough decisions.

“It’s each to their own, I won’t lecture to other sports. But the best leadership, I was once told, is about influence. Hopefully we will influence others.”

The partnership with EAAiS is timely given the spate of sporting off-field scandals, particularly in the NRL. Kamara Buchanan, a project manager for the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), said alcohol was often a common denominator.

“For codes like NRL, they are so quick to condemn the players when there have been off-field misbehaviour that involves alcohol,” Buchanan said.

“They need to step up and lead by example, as Baseball Australia has done. They should be setting the right values from an administration level and send the right message to their professional players, right down to the junior leagues.

“It’s quite hypocritical that they could come out and condemn their players, yet they are quite happy to clad them head to toe in alcohol advertising. There is some sort of hypocrisy there.”

Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.

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