Off the Wall

This has largely escaped the attention of the daily media, but the push for the advertising of alcohol during live sports broadcasts phased out and the sponsorship of sport by alcohol companies outlawed, is gathering momentum.

The report of the Federal Government's Preventative Health Task Force has strongly recommended both happen, and happen sooner rather than later.

And the tabloid dailies in the three eastern states are in the middle of a campaign to highlight alcohol fuelled violence in CBD's and entertainment precincts. And there is an ongoing campaign claiming that very young women in particular are taking to the drink with reckless abandon!

Rugby league is arguably more dependent on alcohol sponsorship than any other sporting code with the possible exception of cricket.

We currently have the VB Kangaroos, and the XXXX Maroons and Tooheys Blues...and virtually every NRL club has a sponsorship agreement with an alcohol company at one level or other.

Apparently the four football codes, cricket, and golf, have combined to form a coalition to fight against the task force's recommendations. Its spokesman is Malcolm Speed, who works for a Melbourne law firm, Brian Ward and Associates. Speed is a former CEO of Cricket Australia and the International Cricket Council.

How do I know that? Well the most effective advocate for smoking bans in Australia, Professor Simon Chapman from the University of Sydney revealed it on yesterday.

In his crikey piece Chapman likened the new "alliance" to the campaign by the major sporting bodies to stop the outlawing of tobacco sponsorship almost three decades ago.

Chapman and the health lobby have found a new cause - the banning of alcohol sponsorship of sport and the limiting of alcohol advertising.

The health lobby is going to embrace this cause with relish. But this time they are going to be joined by any number of other interest groups. Alcohol fuelled violence is not just attracting the attention of the health lobby, and any number of organisations concerned about alcohol and the road toll will clamber on board as well.

The problem for rugby league, and other major sports, is simply this - finding replacements for multi- million dollar alcohol sponsorship is not going to be easy. And if advertising bans are added it is just going to put even more pressure on television rights negotiations.

This all comes at the same time as yet another assault on rugby league revenue is gathering momentum - tighter controls over poker machines.

It is all very well for the NRL/ARL to join up with other codes to fight against what is looming just over the horizon.

But I can assure them that "coalition" campaigns are useless unless they are accompanied by each individual code using its own "clout" to get its message across to governments.

When the Simon Chapman's of the health world have you in the sights it is time to get very serious.

If you can get your hands on a signed VB Kangaroos jersey, grab it - it won't be long before it will be a collector's item!

Just as the Winfield Cup caps and other memorabilia are today!