Sport and booze don't mix

Sport and the alcohol industry have long been in a close, if volatile, marriage. New Zealand is no longer strictly a land of ''rugby, racing and beer'', but various sporting codes still find themselves inextricably linked to alcohol.

But is the tide turning? Is that wave we see coming not of foamy liquor but of a refreshingly new attitude towards booze and sport?

Drinking was commonplace at sports clubs and grounds for decades. Young people (almost exclusively men) were bonded to teams through the intensive consumption of beer. Clubs allocated their budgets according to how much money they took over the bar on Saturday nights. New posts and balls were purchased using sponsorship from liquor companies.

It was, so they thought, a win-win. But the collateral damage eventually became clear: lives ruined by incidents of domestic abuse and drink-driving that inevitably follow excess drinking; shocking sideline behaviour from inebriated fans; and unnecessary exposure to young people of alcohol marketing.

Society started to move with the times. Harsher drink-driving laws turned the Saturday night swill at sports clubs into a more measured affair. Government crackdowns on the prominence of alcohol sponsorship removed some (certainly not all) of the profile of grog from the landscape.

The booze culture in sport also started to be exposed for its recklessness and immaturity. Few cricket fans can forget cringing while Australian cricket great Shane Warne conducted television interviews after the 2015 World Cup final and constantly asked his former team-mates if they were ''thirsty''.

Many sports events are now family-friendly affairs - more focused on the quality of the product, the entertainment, the facilities and the food than on how best to pour litres of grog down young men's throats.

It remains worrying, however, that sport in some areas still seems to struggle to escape the shadow of alcohol.

Impressionable younger people are regularly treated to the sight of their heroes spraying bubbly over team-mates, or swigging beer from the Bledisloe Cup, for example.

Earlier this year, a collaborative study between Otago and Auckland universities revealed the shocking extent to which New Zealand children were exposed to alcohol marketing, and sport was a huge driver of that.

Just last week, the Canterbury Rugby League revealed it was considering banning booze at 20 different parks following a spate of assaults, threats and unsociable behaviour. Alcohol, to nobody's surprise, was fingered as the culprit.

New Zealand sport has come so far in providing new opportunities for women, athletes with disabilities, and anyone wanting to branch out from the traditional codes.

Perhaps there is still work to be done to further distance the sporting community from something that has done lots more harm than good.

AND ANOTHER THING

In sport, there is nothing like a Cinderella story to capture the imagination. And the Otago cricket team fits that bill this summer.

It is perhaps not time to get excessive with our praise - it is just one competition in three, after all, and the absence of most of the country's leading players has created something of a false economy - but the Volts deserve their plaudits after earning the right to host the Ford Trophy final.

Coming off back-to-back wooden spoons, and missing a glut of senior players, Otago has played effective one-day cricket this season. Hopefully, the Volts are rewarded with some long-overdue sunny skies and a buoyant home crowd at the University of Otago Oval this weekend.

After that comes the real challenge - winning the Plunket Shield, the ultimate symbol of domestic cricket supremacy, for the first time since 1987-88.

Comments

Silo Society sends message: 'Now, you're to listen to your betters, but not do as we do: sink more p*ss, which is on our billboards. Obey adults, and ignore them'.

ban drinking / that's the best thing to do.....we can take up dwarf throwing