AFL clubs fail to kick goals when it comes to health

But they score dubious points for junk food endorsement

AFL football teams are sending unhealthy messages, with all 18 teams in the national league sponsored by at least one company linked to unwholesome foods, alcohol or gambling, according to new research.

Almost all (88%) of clubs are sponsored by unhealthy food and beverage companies, with the makers of junk foods and drinks dominating the list of unhealthy sponsors (46%), the Curtin University study finds.

Coca-Cola sponsors more clubs than any other food or drink manufacturer: 13 of the 18 teams, followed by alcohol companies (43%), with the remainder of the unhealthy sponsors linked to gambling.

Carlton Draught is the leading alcohol manufacturer, sponsoring six teams.

Five of the teams ran out on the field with logos for unhealthy sponsors on their playing jumpers while none displayed logos for the healthiest sponsors, the researchers reported in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

“Unhealthy sponsorship is prevalent in the AFL," the authors wrote.

“Given the popularity and reach of this sport, it is suggested that a comprehensive and coordinated approach to advocate for the removal of unhealthy sponsors from sport, using similar tactics to those that removed tobacco sponsorship from sport, is needed within Australia.”

The study authors scoured the websites and playing jumpers of each club to identify sponsors, who they said collectively plough $145 million a year into the teams.

Food and beverage manufacturers got a red rating if their products contained more than 50% of saturated fats, salts and sugars and were low in fibre, but an amber rating if they had some nutritional value.

A green rating was granted to companies whose food was high in fibre and had less than 50% bad fats, salt and sugar or who promoted healthy eating.

 “With such high exposure to fast food brands within the AFL, the concern is that the more children are engaged in, or watch the sport, the greater the influence that junk food sponsorship will have on young people,” the researchers said.

All but three of the teams were sponsored by alcohol companies while 33% were sponsored by wagering companies and casinos.

“This is normalising gambling as part of the AFL experience,” the study authors wrote.

Based on a scoring system of a point for each red sponsor and half-a-point per amber-sponsor, the Brisbane Lions had the dubious honour of coming top of the unhealthy sponsorship ladder.

Ironically, Richmond, which sits on top of the ladder heading into the AFL finals, also ‘won’ the sponsorship challenge, earning the least points for unhealthy sponsors.

More Information:

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 2018; online